In May 2012, McKinsey came out with an article recognizing health and wellness as the next trillion-dollar industry. Additionally, findings from the 2015 CogFx Study from Harvard University suggested that employees show higher cognitive function scores when working in green and healthy office environments. On an average people spend 90% of their time indoors, therefore, it is essential to emphasize improving the health and wellness of building occupants. There is also a strong business case for focusing on occupant wellness as analyzed by the “Knoll Workplace Research”. From the graphic below, it is clear that the personnel costs significantly outweigh the costs for energy, rent, and operations in a commercial building.
Following a two-year pilot program and a rigorous research and development process, WELLv1 for commercial and institutional buildings was launched in Oct 2014. With around 98 certified and well over 883 registered projects in the world, WELL Certification is slowly but surely gaining momentum in the construction industry.
The next version on WELL, version 2 pilot was released on May 31, 2018 reflecting data from new research, feedback from various experts in the field of health and wellness as well as the WELL Faculty and APs. Even though WELLv1 is still applicable and available for projects to pursue for at least another year, it is important to take a deeper dive into the changes made in WELLv2 to understand how the conversations about health and well-being will shape the constructing industry and the place where we live, work, and play in the coming decade.
The major highlights from WELLv2 include:
- One WELL
- Addition of new Concepts
- New feature set, fewer Preconditions and weighted Optimizations
- Updated Scoring criteria
- Update to the pricing structure
WELLv2 is opting for a unified rating system approach with one WELL for “all buildings”. WELLv1 had several pilot programs including multifamily residential, commercial kitchen, retail, restaurants, etc. but WELLv2 consolidates all into one while providing the flexibility to customize the scorecard as applicable to the project type. The various existing and any new project typologies can leverage a universal set of Preconditions and Optimizations and apply them to the project by incorporating different pathways and thresholds for achievement.
Addition of new Concepts
WELLv2 expands on the seven concepts of Air, Water, Nourishment, Light, Fitness, Comfort and Mind that were first introduced in WELLv1. WELLv2 now has ten concepts with the addition of Materials, Sound, and Community.
- The new Sound Concept is a by-product of breaking out the v1 Comfort Concept into “Thermal Comfort” and “Sound”.
- The new Materials is a much-needed concept and derives from features originally in Air and Mind A lot of major manufacturers and developers are showing an interest in healthy materials and the new Materials concept will help streamline the process of material selection by providing guidelines.
- The new Community concept focuses on equity, transparency, and company policies. It also has the most features of any concept in v2.
New feature set, fewer Preconditions and weighted Optimizations
WELLv1 required the achievement of all Preconditions to achieve a minimum of WELL Silver status. However, in v2 the required number of mandatory Preconditions have been reduced to encourage more projects to pursue the Certification and customize the Optimizations per the project’s goals and aspirations. While achieving all Preconditions is still mandatory, it does not guarantee WELL Silver status, a minimum number of Optimizations must also be achieved. The image below provides an overview of the total number of preconditions and optimizations for each of the ten concepts.
Updated Scoring Criteria
WELLv2 updated the scoring criteria to follow a similar point system as in LEED. A new 100-point scoring system has been introduced, where each part within the optimization carries a distinct point and can be pursued individually. Preconditions are mandatory, and do not have any points assigned to them. The new scoring system of weighted average assigned to each of the parts within the optimization rewards projects for applying high-impact features that align with the project’s goals.
Per the new scoring structure, breakdown of the Certification Levels is as follows:
WELL Certified (WELL Core only): 40-49
WELL Silver: 50-59
WELL Gold: 60-79
WELL Platinum: 80 and above
Updated Pricing Structure
One of the major hurdles for projects pursuing WELL was the cost of the overall certification. WELLv2 aims to address the issue by introducing a new subscription-based pricing structure while also providing teams the option to select their own local performance testing agent to further reduce the cost of on-site performance testing.
Instead of pricing the project based on project type, the overall pricing is now calculated per square foot of the project.
Two options for available to projects for payment are:
Single Cycle: The single cycle payment option is similar for WELLv1 where projects can pay a one-time project fee and submit project documentation for review within five years of registration. The recertification fee after three years of Certification will be approximately 30% of the original certification fee.
Subscription: Projects can also opt for an ongoing subscription option offering teams the flexibility to distribute the overall fees over time. The project’s overall fee in the subscription model will not increase during the term of the subscription. The subscribing members will also receive 10 complimentary AAPs and a 35% discount on WELL AP registration for up to 10 members of the project team.
Currently, the above-mentioned benefits are only available to projects pursuing WELLv2, however, WELLv1 projects may upgrade their registration to v2 for no added cost. No sunset schedule is announced for WELLv1 and it is expected to be active for at least another year. New projects can choose to register under WELLv1 or WELLv2 pilot and various resources are already available on IWBI’s website for projects to help make that decision.
While LEED is the most established green building rating systems, its focus is primarily on building’s efficiency. WELL, however, focuses more on the building occupant’s health and wellness. Ultimately both rating systems are trying to make people healthier and the planet better by encouraging a holistic approach. Many universities like Cal Poly Pomona are challenging themselves to achieve both goals and stepping up to be the leaders.