Yesterday I had the pleasure of exchanging business cards with an architectural lighting designer while networking. In conversation, she mentioned that she’s holding off on ordering new cards until she’s achieved the WELL accredited professional certification. I was taken back that this was the first time I’d heard of the standard. Similar to a LEED certification that a project or professional can be accredited in, both aim towards healthier, more productive spaces – for both end users and the environment. It was clear that I needed to read up and learn more.
So, what is the difference between LEED and WELL certification?
The primary difference between LEED and WELL is that WELL is focused on the people in the building rather than the systems put in place. While there are requirements for the physical aspects of buildings, it also encompasses a lot of more traditionally HR aspects like, for instance, paid maternity or paternity leave. The WELL/LEED concepts are not in opposition to each other— both certifications really fall hand-in-hand.
How does a construction project gain this accreditation?
A building must meet the steps of the certification process.
First, there must be an assessment of WELL’s scorecard to set goals for health and wellness in connection with research and project progress. The International Well Building Institute (IWBI) provides support to organizations who register their project, and accredited professionals’ guidance can also be a big help.
Next comes implementation. During a project, documentation is important to submit to the IWBI for confirmation that health goals are being met. According to the IBWI website, WELL D&O, available to all buildings, is an official designation of achievement that projects can utilize to communicate an interim achievement in the journey toward WELL Certification.
Following submission of documentation comes the review process. Similar to LEED’s different levels, there are also varying calibers of WELL (Silver, Gold, or Platinum awards). These certifications are awarded based on an external review.
Once the certification is granted, it’s important to monitor the achievement and uphold the performance by reassessing goals to see the fullest value.
Why should an organization pursue this for their building(s)?
In a thought leadership piece by the CEO of the International WELL Building Institute, Rick Fedrizzi, one segment stood apart to me, explaining the push for WELL buildings:
“The future of the planet is at stake, and so is the future of the global economy. Environmental degradation and climate change are beginning to take an enormous economic toll that will grow by orders of magnitude in the coming years. Meanwhile, environmentally friendly business practices are creating an economic windfall for those smart enough to embrace them.
This is the new reality—and our historic opportunity. These strategies can bring us together and help us dramatically reduce our carbon footprint, eliminate harmful pollution, and build a better, greener, healthier world. We just need to be mindful that thoughtful regulation plays a role as well, providing a mechanism to make sure market power works for all of us.
Conventional wisdom tells us that sustainability is prohibitively expensive; that industry is, by definition, destructive; and that environmentalism and capitalism are diametrically opposed. But it’s time to toss that old way of thinking out a triple-glazed, energy-efficient window. Because even though the private sector and the environmental movement have long thought of themselves as adversaries—or, at best, as folks who just walk a different path—the truth is, if we don’t get our act together, we will share the same fate.”
It’s always refreshing to learn something completely new, especially when it’s something that can have as drastic of an impact as I believe this accreditation is capable of.