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WELL v2: Improving Well-being Through Sustainable Design

With the growing awareness of the importance of sustainable and healthy building design, the WELL Building Standard (WELL v2) has taken a unique approach to measuring and quantifying the aspects of a space that are important to improving human well-being.

With the growing awareness of the importance of sustainable and healthy building design, the WELL Building Standard (WELL v2) has taken a unique approach to measuring and quantifying the aspects of a space that are important to improving human well-being. This standard, developed by the International WELL Building Institute (IWBI), seeks to define and understand the relationship between buildings and their occupants through a focus on physical and mental health, comfort, and overall well-being. We’ve pulled together the key things you need to know WELL v2 and the things that make it important to sustainable building design.

The Evolution of WELL

The WELL Building Standard began in 2014 with its first version, WELL v1. The first version of IWBI standard focused primarily on enhancing occupant health by addressing various aspects of building design, operations, and policies. It filled a gap left by most other sustainability standards by focusing on what makes a building a ‘healthy’ work environment instead of simply focusing on efficiency. After the initial success of v1, the IWBI introduced WELL v2 in 2018. This second revision of the standard is a significantly more comprehensive and adaptable framework that more directly addresses evolving occupier needs and incorporates new industry best practices.

Key Criteria of WELL v2

  1. Air: Focusing primarily on improving indoor air quality by setting stringent requirements on air filtration, ventilation, and the management of pollutants, such as volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and particulate matter.
  2. Water: Promoting access to clean and safe drinking water while reducing water wastage. It encourages the installation of water purification systems and the displaying of data about day-to-day water quality.
  3. Nourishment: Aiming to improve nutrition by encouraging healthy eating habits, promoting nutritious food options and educating occupants about dietary choices.
  4. Light: Daylight and lighting design play a significant role in occupant well-being, with WELL v2 setting criteria for natural light exposure, lighting design, and the reduction of glare and flicker.
  5. Movement: Encouraging physical activity through accessible and appealing staircases, fitness facilities, and active transportation options within and around the building.
  6. Thermal Comfort: Giving occupants more control over their thermal environment, promoting comfort and productivity by addressing temperature, humidity, and air speed.
  7. Sound: Acoustic comfort is crucial for concentration and well-being so areas like sound insulation, noise reduction, and acoustic design are addressed to create quiet and productive spaces.
  8. Materials: Concentrating on the selection of building materials including the use of low-emitting materials, sustainable sourcing, and transparency in material choices.
  9. Mind: The mental health and emotional well-being of occupants are prioritised with a focus on reducing stress and improving cognitive function.
  10. Community: WELL v2 fosters a sense of community within and around the building by encouraging social interaction and access to green spaces.

The Impacts of WELL v2

WELL v2 has a significant impact on the way buildings are designed, constructed, and operated, with far-reaching effects on multiple aspects of the built environment:

Health and Well-being - By prioritising occupant health and comfort, WELL v2-certified buildings are designed to improve physical and mental well-being, reduce absenteeism, and enhance productivity.

Sustainable Design - While WELL v2's primary focus is on health, it also helps bring buildings in line with sustainability goals by promoting energy-efficient lighting, water conservation, and environmentally friendly construction materials.

Market Demand - The demand for wellbeing focused spaces as well as specifically WELL v2 certified spaces has grown significantly.  As occupants, tenants, and investors increasingly prioritise well-being and sustainability in building choices, this has a real-world effect on occupancy rates.

Economic Benefits - WELL v2-certified buildings experience lower operating costs, higher property values, and reduced vacancy rates due to the boosts they can provide to business productivity and office attendance.

Education and Awareness – With notable implementations of the WELL v2 standard, there has been a significant increase in awareness about the connection between building design and human well-being, leading to greater knowledge sharing and better-informed decision-making.

Challenges and Future Prospects

While WELL v2 has achieved remarkable success, it isn’t without its challenges. It does have some initial implementation costs that non-wellbeing focused buildings do not have and the need for ongoing monitoring and maintenance to ensure continued compliance also has costs associated with it. However, as the evidence supporting the connection between well-being and building design continues to grow, these challenges are increasingly seen as wise investments in occupant health and satisfaction, rather than additional unnecessary operating costs. It is also wise to consider whether any of the other sustainability standards might be a better fit for your space, including LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design), RESET (Regenerative Ecological, Social and Economic Targets), BREEAM (Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method) and AirScore. We here at NCG can help you do that.

Final thoughts

WELL v2 represents a significant evolution in sustainable building design, placing human well-being at the heart of the built environment. By addressing key aspects of health, comfort, and productivity, it has become a significant driving force behind wellbeing-focused construction in the real estate industry. As the world recognises the importance of occupant health and sustainability, WELL v2 remains a valuable resource in ensuring the design, construction, and operation of buildings are prioritising the well-being of their occupants and the planet.

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