The WELL Building Standard and Its Contribution
to Fight Against Covid-19
Any building can contribute to the illness of its inhabitants. Sick building syndrome, introduced in 1986, refers to various ailments that cause people to get sick by staying in a building. It can be any sickness – from sinusitis to other serious diseases that cause cancer. Most of the time, what causes them to get sick has to do with the air quality. Fortunately, the WELL building standard can help safeguard the inhabitants.
Anyone who carries the novel coronavirus can transmit the disease through respiratory droplets. And as the country continues its daily operations, questions regarding keeping people safe arise. Sure, vaccines are available, but what are the actions taken to protect building inhabitants? How do we ensure the safety of everyone in the building?
In response to the safety concerns, the International WELL Building Institute has introduced the WELL health-safety rating for the management and facility operations. The purpose of this is to focus on protocols and policies for a better environment amid the pandemic. Eventually, this safety rating will apply to restaurants, warehouses, grocery stores, hotels, offices, schools, and more. Any location that will participate in the said program needs to submit its protocols, policies, and strategies for annual compliance verification and document review.
The WELL building standard certification
The WELL building standard certification is somehow like the LEED certification. While it addresses environmental issues, the focus is on the health of the building inhabitants. That includes sound, air, and comfort.
Currently, WELL certification has two types: WELL v1 and WELL v2. It has three certification options, namely: single cycle, three-year subscription, and five-year subscription.
Both the WELL v1 and WELL v2 are available for new and existing buildings and commercial and residential projects. The WELL v1 is the first version of the program, while the WELL v2 is the second and the latest version. These two versions are different – the WELL v2 has a new scoring system with new qualifying features.
How is the WELL v2 different?
The WELL building standard v2 combines the iterations of the WELL v1, creating a single rating system. It aims to accommodate all sectors and project types and focuses on ten concepts. These concepts include the following:
- Air Community
- Thermal Comfort
All these concepts can affect human health and well-being. Addressing the issues revolving around them ensures the protection of everyone in a building. The policies, designs, and building-centric strategies have a connection with the health of the building occupants.
And it highlights the features within these concepts.
Even Rachel Gutter, the president of IWBI, mentioned that they channeled everything they learned into a more adaptable and accessible rating system. The WELL v2 is not only dynamic – it’s ready to change the world.
Ever since the launch of the WELL building standard v2 in 2018, the IWBI has been collecting feedback from the global community members. The goal is to use the available resources to examine every technique and test every concept.
How does the WELL building standard certification work?
The first step to WELL certification is to register the project. Once registered, the project manager or building owner sends the necessary documents – construction documents, design plans, surveys, reports, and mechanical drawings. The building owner, engineers, contractors, and the architect also submit letters of assurance to confirm the building features.
After submitting these documents, Green Business Certification Inc. assigns a GBCI WELL reviewer to the project. A WELL reviewer (usually a third-party individual) then reviews the performance test results and documents following the WELL requirements.
The WELL performance testing representatives handle the performance tests on the site. They send the samples to the laboratories for testing and then submit the results to the WELL reviewer. These tests revolve around the water quality, air quality, thermal considerations, light attributes, and acoustic elements in the building. These requirements all relate to the well-being and comfort of the building inhabitants.
How does the WELL building standard help against Covid-19?
Unlike LEED, the WELL building standard isn’t as popular. Not a lot of buildings in the US are WELL-certified. Because of the Covid-19 pandemic, there is an increase of interest surrounding WELL certification, specifically how to get certified and how people can become WELL accredited professionals. With our current situation, many building owners do not have the time for the documentation process but will still need to prove that their establishment is safe.
As we adjust to the new normal, buildings follow a variety of new sets of rules – from distancing requirements to frequent cleanings. In China, they use temperature screenings and assign an app-based code to people. They use the colors red, yellow, and green to determine if they can travel and access certain areas or not. One way to ensure the safety of the building is to safeguard the entrance and exit doors. Smart locks that operate through mobile devices are one way of making a building safe. Another example would be anti-microbial door handles and buttons.
Here in the US, we follow several tests to ensure safety in the building amid the pandemic. These tests are necessary for thermal screening, evaluating the effectiveness of decontamination methods, and reducing air particulate matter concentration. What makes the WELL building standard impressive is that the efforts don’t only work to make building inhabitants safe from the virus. They also protect them against other respiratory viruses.
In this time of crisis, building owners need to ensure safety in the building. You wouldn’t want anyone in the establishment to fall ill for not following the safety guidelines. You also wouldn’t want anyone to test positive for Covid-19.
Luckily, the International Well Building Institute is leading communities to safeguard building inhabitants by delivering a cutting-edge system – the WELL building standard. It’s the leading rating system today. It’s also the first to exclusively focus on how buildings can improve the inhabitants’ health and well-being while ensuring comfort.
When that day comes when more and more buildings use the WELL standard, others will follow. Even restaurants, hotels, schools, and grocery stores will apply this safety rating to protect more people.
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