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WELL Certification: A new way to Take the LEAD in Sustainable Building

Posted: 12:29PM August 16th, 2016 | Comments

As human beings in a modern world, we all have an inevitable connection to buildings. Our houses are buildings, most of us take up work in buildings, whether large or small, and we rely on buildings such as community centers and concert halls for services and some form of culture. In fact, according to survey published by the Journal of Exposure Science and Environmental Epidemiology in 1998, Americans spend a whopping 87% of their time indoors, a figure that may have increased since then, but that remained fairly constant in the decades prior (Klepeis et al).


Some of the time we can’t choose the buildings we inhabit--like it or not, your office is just where the company decided to put it. And yet other times we can. But have you ever wondered why exactly you prefer being in certain buildings over others? Sure, we’ve all spent time with our friends fantasizing about our dream house, but have you ever considered what factors in a building really truly make you feel good?


In case you haven’t, or, in case you have, but didn’t have the time or expertise to figure it out, someone else has. Or at least that’s what Delos™ Living, LLC and its subsidiary public benefit corporation The WELL Building Institute™ claims to have done. They conducted research on this very topic over seven years and out of that produced a new kid on the certification block, the WELL Building Standard™ and its accompanying WELL Certification.


According to their website, the WELL Building Standard™ is a framework for making new construction and renovation healthy for its occupants. This framework comprises seven core concepts: air, water, nourishment, light, fitness, comfort, and mind. Each core concept forms the basis for criteria, or “preconditions,” applicants must meet with respect to accessibility, behavioral influence, controllability, and design integration. In their words “WELL is a performance-based system for measuring, certifying, and monitoring features of the built environment that impact human health and well-being” (“Well”).


To be clear, the WELL Building Standard™ and WELL Certification are products. As of this year, commercial and institutional office buildings can pursue WELL Certification while retail, restaurant, multi-family residential, and other building projects can pursue certification through WELL pilot programs. Like LEED, WELL Certification is third party certified by Green Business Certification Inc (GBCI). And this relationship could be key factor in Delos’s success because, according to their website, it “assures that WELL works seamlessly with LEED” (“About”).


Since Delos launched the certification in 2014, nearly 200 projects totalling 35 million square feet have either been certified or registered for certification including the Phipps Center for Sustainable Landscapes in Pittsburgh, PA and the CBRE corporate headquarters in Los Angeles. Based on my calculations, the average size of all registered and already certified projects is approximately 213,000 square feet, or, about half the size of the Kohl Center. Based on my calculations, WELL Certification for the various project typologies ranges from $0.23 per square foot (Core & Shell for Residential and Commercial) to $1.47 per square foot (New and Existing Interiors) with significant discounts given based on size (Estimates).


While the jury is still out on the importance of this new certification, some local developers have already found their verdict. Within the short period of time from when I first began my research three projects here in Madison alighted a previously blank “Wisconsin” category in WELL Certified or Registered projects. When I began, the nearest registered or certified WELL project was in Chicago and today their website reports three projects in Madison ranging from 50,000  to 100,000 square feet. Unfortunately, we can only guess as to who is on the cutting edge because each of these projects is deemed “private."


Leo Cox is a student at the Wisconsin School of Business here in Madison



"About." International WELL Building Institute. Delos Living, LLC, n.d. Web. 10 Aug. 2016.


Estimates. Data derived from estimates requested for projects ranging from 8,000 - 100,000ft2 in New and Existing Interiors, New and Existing Buildings, and Core and Shell for Residential and Commercial categories. https://wellonline.wellcertified.com/node/add/pricing. 27 July 2016.


Klepeis, Neil E., William C. Nelson, Wayne R. Ott, John P. Robinson, Andy M. Tsang, Paul Switzer, Joseph V. Behar, Stephen C. Hern, and William H. Engelmann. "The National Human Activity Pattern Survey (NHAPS): A Resource for Assessing Exposure to Environmental Pollutants." J Expo Anal Environ Epidemiol Journal of Exposure Analysis and Environmental Epidemiology 11.3 (2001): 231-52. Web. 10 Aug. 2016.


"Well." International WELL Building Institute. Delos Living, LLC, n.d. Web. 10 Aug. 2016.

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