Collogues sitting in a well lit office room

The WELL Certification: What are the key changes between v1 and v2?

At Alpin, we are committed to providing the best to our people and we strongly believe that our employees are our most valuable assets. The IWBI mission to provide healthier and happier communities to building occupants fully aligns with our mission to do the same. So when in 2019, they launched the first WELL Certification, it made perfect sense for us to get our offices certified. We were successful in doing so and became the first WELL Health-Safety-rated office in the Middle East.

Then in 2020, IWBI updated the WELL standard based on the feedback received from different stakeholders and industry professionals. The WELL v1 had very strict requirements, and it was very challenging to obtain certification and application of the standard on many buildings. Creating WELL v2 made it available to a larger market.

So if you are eager to get more details about the WELL certification and understand the difference between the WELL v1 and v2 (version) better read on!

What is the WELL Certification?

The certification is originally from the USA but has been tailored to be applicable all over the world. The WELL Building Standard was launched by the International WELL Building Institute in 2014 after 6 years of intensive research and collaboration between designers, psychologists, building physicists, medical professionals, all passionate about the impact the built environment has on our health and wellbeing. All projects implementing the WELL features benefit from higher occupant’s productivity, creativity, retention, and less absenteeism. Currently, more than 4,000 projects in nearly 60 countries have been certified around the world and at Alpin, we are so proud to have been the first certified office in the Middle East!

Unlike any other building certifications, WELL focuses exclusively on building occupants and wellbeing in general. As we spend 90% of our time indoors, indoor air can be 2 to 5 times more polluted than outdoor air if the air is not regulated correctly. Unfortunately, important factors such as indoor air quality are very often overlooked by developers and designers in their decision-making process.

Key changes between WELL v1 and v2

The first version of WELL considered 100 performance features, 41 of those were mandatory and 59 were described as optimizations. WELL v2 however has 112 features that fall under the 10 key concepts as seen below:

Different elements of WELL v2

Let’s delve into the different concepts:

Air

The Air concept in the WELL certification aims to ensure good indoor air quality for building occupants. Humans breathe more than 15,000 liters of air1 every day and having access to good air quality can significantly impact our productivity, health, and wellbeing in the short and long term.

In WELL v1, the air concept was the one that had the most features available. In WELL v2, some of these features became concepts such as Materials and Thermal Comfort. The Air concept is therefore focusing more on specific design strategies that will ensure the building provides cleaner air as well as minimizing exposure to harmful contaminants.

Water

The WELL Water concept looks at the quality, distribution, and control of liquid water in a building. Tremendous improvements have been made in drinking water quality over the past century thanks to very efficient treatment and distribution systems. However, the risk of water contamination is still present and can have a detrimental impact on our health by significantly increasing the chances of catching cancer.

This concept did not change much between both versions, only a few consolidations have been made with for example changes in specific threshold requirements for several water contaminants such as Styrene, Benzene, Toulene, Atrazine, and Chlorine.

Nourishment

Nutrition and having access to healthy food are key elements to providing the nutrients that the body requires. Unfortunately, most individuals do not consume the recommended fruits and vegetable quantities (400g)2, and most of the time, it is because they do not have access to healthy options. Poor nutrition has been causing a lot of noncommunicable diseases and has contributed to the rise of chronic diseases around the globe. The Nourishments Concept in the WELL Certification helps building occupants to make the right choice when it comes to food and requires the availability of fruits and vegetables to encourage people to choose the healthier options available.

At Alpin, having fruits and vegetables available every morning made a huge difference for all employees. We were more productive having healthy options available at the office and not snacking on junk food every day. Our routine changed significantly just by adding fruit options at the office.

The Nourishment Concept in WELL v2 offers more flexibility for various types of food-service and the number of preconditions required was reduced.

Light

The WELL Light concept promotes the importance of light and supports lighting design strategies that are best for human visual, biological, and mental health. Light exposure has a significant impact on our human circadian rhythm, a 24-hour cycle, part of the body’s internal clock that is tied up to the cycle of day and night. Many studies show that a disruption of the circadian rhythm can increase the risks of obesity, diabetes, depression, and other chronic diseases.

The most significant change in WELL v2 is that circadian lighting is not a precondition any more. However, the concept still very much focuses on lighting strategies that would reduce the circadian phase disruption and therefore improve the productivity and mood of building occupants by improving their sleep quality.

Movement

The WELL Movement Concept highlights the importance of physical activity and promotes movement within our buildings. Our sedentary behaviors are harming our health and various diseases such as cardiovascular disease, depression, stroke, dementia, and many others can be directly linked to a lack of exercise and inactivity. While most people are aware of the benefits of physical activity, nearly 23% of the adult population worldwide is physically inactive3. This serious public health issue could be significantly improved by providing more opportunities to reduce sedentary behaviors in spaces where we live, work, go to school.

In WELL v1, this Concept was called Fitness and was renamed to ‘Movement’ in WELL v2. Some of the features from the Comfort Concept have been incorporated into the Movement Concept such as ergonomic requirements (Visual and Physical Ergonomics) and workplace safety.

Thermal Comfort

The American Society of Heating, Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) defines Thermal Comfort as “the condition of mind that expresses satisfaction with the thermal environment and is assessed by subjective evaluation.” 4 The WELL Standard supports design strategies providing the best levels of thermal comfort to building occupants thanks to improved HVAC system and temperature control availability. Thermal Comfort is a very subjective concept and this holistic approach allows individuals with different needs to adjust the temperature of their living spaces to feel comfortable in the building. Indoor thermal environment not only impacts our building’s energy consumption but also directly positively or negatively impacts our productivity, well-being and health.

In WELL v1, this Thermal Comfort Concept was part of the Comfort Concept, it is in WELL v2 a separate one.

Sound

We know that unwanted noises can have a terrible impact on our health and well-being. Constant building-related noises due to HVAC systems, lousy acoustic insulation, improper partitioning of areas or improper acoustic design can lead to mental health problems such as anxiety and mental fatigue, stress, and migraines. Moreover, a study shows that building occupants can get extremely distracted when noises are easily transmitted between offices (open spaces) and this directly impacts their productivity.5 The Sounds Concept sheds light on the importance of identifying factors that will enhance our acoustic experience within buildings.

The Sounds Concept is also a separate concept in WELL v2. It was part of the Comfort Concept in WELL v1.

Materials

Did you know that we have insufficient data on the health impacts of approximately 95% of chemicals used in the construction industry worldwide?6 Building materials are often produced with chemicals that can have a significant impact on indoor air quality. For example, volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and semi-volatile compounds (SVOCs) can lead to respiratory irritations, cancers and have other health effects on building occupants. These chemicals are present in some of the most common materials used in the construction industry such as insolation, furniture, composite wood products, flooring materials, etc. The Material concept helps designers reduce potential exposure to hazardous building materials and promotes healthier material options.

Material is a new concept in WELL v2, it was included in the Air and Mind features in WELL v1.

Mind

The World Health Organization defines Health as “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.“7 Mental health is a very important component to our productivity, well being and is very often either overlooked or ignored by many. The built environment has the potential to support our mental health and significantly shapes the way we experience spaces. The Mind Concept in WELL guides how to positively impact our cognitive and emotional health through policies, programs, and design strategies. At Alpin, adding more plants to our office space and using the benefits of biophilic design truly improved the employees’ morale, efficiency, and job satisfaction.

The Mind concept in WELL v2 is looking at design strategies and company-wide policies focusing on cognitive and emotional health while in WELL v1, it includes some features related to social well-being that are now part of the community concept.

Community

Being part of a community that has access to health services, promotes healthy behaviors, provides equitable spaces and employment can positively impact our health and well-being.  Workplaces have the potential to encourage healthy behaviors within communities, and this very often leads to a happier workplace as well as less absenteeism.

Community is a new concept in WELL v2, it includes a lot of features that were part of the Mind concept and ads requirements for equity and social cohesion.

Bottom line

To conclude, the WELL v2 has less preconditions and more optimizations which makes the standard more flexible and allows projects to be more creative using innovative solutions to get more points. This is a very positive outcome for the newer version and we hope to see more and more projects in the Middle East target the WELL certification. It is currently the most comprehensive guidelines available focusing on improving the health and wellbeing of building occupants and if you would like to know more about the ROI of WELL, you can learn more about it here.

 


References

1McDowell J. Encyclopedia of Human Body Systems. Greenwood; 2011.

2World Health Organization. Diet, nutrition and the prevention of chronic diseases-Report of the joint WHO/FAO expert consultation. 2003. 

3Sallis JF, Bull F, Guthold R, et al. Progress in physical activity over the Olympic quadrennium. Lancet. 2017;388(10051):1325-1336. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(16)30581-5. 

4American Society of Heating, Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Engineers. ANSI/ASHRAE Standard 55-2013: Thermal Environmental Conditions for Human Occupancy. Atlanta: ASHRAE; 2013.

5Cavanaugh WJ, Farrell WR, Hirtle PW, Watters BG. Speech Privacy in Buildings. J Acoust Soc Am. 1962;34(4):475-492. doi:10.1121/1.1918154.

6Pacheco-Torgal F. Introduction: Types of potentially toxic building materials. In: Toxicity of Building Materials. Sawston, Cambridge: Woodhead Publishing Limited, 2012. 

7Garrin JM. The Power of Workplace Wellness: A Theoretical Model for Social Change Agency. J Soc Chang. 2014.