WELL – Understanding the all new wellness rating system by USGBC
WELL – Redefining takes on building performance.
With the start of the 1990s, people realised how energy intensive our buildings were designed to be. Relying almost entirely on electricity and air-conditioning, a need was felt to promote energy efficient infrastructure which eventually lead to the great sustainability movement. While some started digging back to history and referring to vernacular methods of construction and architecture, which was inherently green, some took the course of technological advancements to analyse the impacts of various architectural endeavours with the help of simulations and audits. Soon organisations like the USGBC (US Green Building Council) in the US came up, followed by its Indian counterparts like the IGBC (Indian Green Building Council) and GRIHA.
Soon all the focus was on energy conservation, efficiency and how sustainable a building was, almost side-lining the main purpose of a building – its occupants’ comfort and wellbeing.
The need for shelter and comfort could be said to be the prime reasons for which the practice and study of architecture evolved. From the need to protect us from elements of nature, animals, natural calamities to the ones made by the man himself. We have come a long way. Concerns have changed from the one’s protection from wild animals to that of theft and crime, but even today all that humans seek is an assurance of being and feeling safe, comfortable and having sense of well-being, ensuring them to act with best of their capabilities.
Us humans are always dependent on our environments to nurture and sustain us. Today when most of our time is spent indoors, this environment is the built environment. This built-environment can either support or inhibit us from achieving our maximum potential and it is imperative to ensure our buildings have a positive impact on us.
With this realisation the International WELL Building Institute has come up with its WELL rating system to recognise and acknowledge buildings and communities that help people thrive, it is the world’s first building certification that focuses exclusively on human health and wellness.
What is WELL?
The WELL rating is a performance-based system for measuring, certifying and monitoring features of the built environment that impact human health and wellbeing. It aims to prevent chronic diseases by improving the nutrition, fitness, mood, sleep patterns and performance of its occupants.
It’s organised into seven ‘concepts’ of wellness including more than 102 ‘features’. These can be performance-based standards (e.g. VOC reduction) or prescriptive standards that require specific technologies, design strategies or protocols (e.g. a smoking ban).
Understanding the concepts of WELL
‘We need water, air and light to survive.
We need good water, good air and good light to thrive’
WELL building standard v2
The WELL Air concept aims to ensure high levels of indoor air quality across a building’s lifetime through diverse strategies that include source elimination or reduction, active and passive building design and operation strategies and human behaviour interventions.
The WELL Water concept covers aspects of the quality, distribution and control of liquid water in a building. It includes features that address the availability and contaminant thresholds of drinking water, as well as features targeting the management of water to avoid damage to building materials and environmental conditions.
The WELL Nourishment concept requires the availability of fruits and vegetables and nutritional transparency and encourages the creation of food environments where the healthiest choice is the easiest choice.
The WELL Light concept promotes exposure to light and aims to create lighting environments that are optimal for visual, mental and biological health.
The WELL Movement concept promotes movement, physical activity and active living and discourages sedentary behaviours through environmental design strategies, programs and policies.
The WELL Thermal Comfort concept aims to promote human productivity and ensure a maximum level of thermal comfort among all building users through improved HVAC system design and control and by meeting individual thermal preferences.
The WELL Sound concept aims to bolster occupant health and well-being through the identification and mitigation of acoustical comfort parameters that shape occupant experiences in the built environment.
The WELL Materials concept aims to reduce human exposure to hazardous building material ingredients through the restriction or elimination of compounds or products known to be toxic and the promotion of safer replacements. Compounds known to be hazardous to the health of occupational workers and/or known to bioaccumulate or aggregate in the environment are also restricted and, in some instances, not permitted.
The WELL Mind concept promotes mental health through policy, program and design strategies that seek to address the diverse factors that influence cognitive and emotional well-being.
The WELL Community concept aims to support access to essential healthcare, workplace health promotion and accommodations for new parents while establishing an inclusive, integrated community through social equity, civic engagement and accessible design.
References: WELL Building standard v2
Nivia Jain, an architecture student by choice, an explorer by heart, a photographer by habit and a reader by obsession is pursuing her bachelor's degree from the School of Planning and Architecture, New Delhi. She is passionate about travelling and reading, and through her travels, she has developed a deep understanding of people, cultures, architecture and heritage. She likes engaging in conversations with people from diverse backgrounds. As a student she has always been interested in subjects like theory of design and history of architecture and her knack of exploring different crafts adds to her love for architecture and design.