Health And Wellness Certification For Building Designs Are On The Horizon

By Scott Kriner, Green Metal Consulting

Even though there is no letter “H” or “W” in the  acronym for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) the USGBC’s green building rating system is creeping into the health and wellness of the building occupants. Lowering energy consumption and reducing the environmental footprints of buildings have been the primary focus of most of the major green building rating programs, including LEED and Green Globes…until now.

The LEEDv4 rating system introduced credits for disclosure of chemicals in the ingredients used for building materials. The reference to over 30 Red Lists has become a critical path for optimization efforts to reduce the health hazards of the manufacturing processes, the installation phase and also the occupancy phase of buildings. We have seen the Pharos group, GreenScreen, C2C, Health Product Declaration Collaborative,  Product Transparency Declarations, and other green verification tools and organizations ramping up their efforts to lower the impact on the health and wellness of the people involved in the making of building materials and the occupants.

At last year’s Greenbuild in Philadelphia, it was announced that Google had given USGBC a $3million grant to help in the integration of the Material and Resources credit that pertained to disclosure and optimization of chemical ingredients in building materials. Some of that funding has gone to meetings with Google Fellows, USGBC and the National Institutes of Health to discuss protocols, tools, and compliance for limiting the hazardous chemicals found in many building materials. That discussion must include not only the hazards of chemicals, but also the exposure and risk considerations when assessing the safety of a given chemical or product.

The growing emphasis of the health and wellness of the occupants of today’s and tomorrow’s buildings was evident at this year’s Greenbuild Conference with a full day summit on The WELL Building Standard. This standard is meant to improve health and wellness of building occupants. Their program is the result of research on the effects of indoor space on people. Their work included the collaboration with physicians, scientists and industry professionals. That collaboration included work with the Mayo Clinic and the Cleveland Clinic on Wellness. Over 7 years of reviewing work in this field and research resulted in a two-year pilot program of the WELL Standard. Currently the WELL Standard is available to New Construction, Tenant Improvements and Core & Shell developments. Future versions of WELL will include multi-family, retail, convention centers, schools and healthcare facilities.

The WELL Building Standard is managed and administered by the International WELL Building Institute.  It is organized as a public benefit corporation (B-Corp). The concept was pioneered by the Delos Living LLC organization. It is also supported by the Clinton Global Initiative to develop spaces that enhance occupant health and quality.

The structure of the WELL Building Standard is similar to that of the USGBC’s LEED program. A building can receive WELL Certified, and WELL Silver or Gold or Platinum status depending on the level of compliance. The methods for a building project to achieve more points in the program include techniques, strategies and procedures related to improved nutrition, fitness, mood, sleep patterns and performance.

Seven Concepts are broken down into Features and further divided into requirements. This is similar to the LEED program organized into several Categories, broken down into credits and divided further into points. The WELL program also requires some number of pre-conditions and optimization practices in each Concept. A total of 102 metrics, strategies and procedures are contained in the Standard.

The seven primary Concepts include Air, Water, Nourishment, Light,  Fitness, Comfort and Mind. And the Features within each Concept includes measures that minimize the impact on all of the human body systems , such as the cardiovascular system, muscular systems, respiratory system, and even the immune system, as examples.

Looking at the Comfort Concept as an example, the main Features that are available include strategies in the following requirements: ADA Accessible design, ergonomics, exterior noise intrusion, thermal comfort, sound masking, radiant thermal comfort and others.

The field of Health and Wellness for building occupants is a new area to watch. A description of the WELL Building Standard website states that it is “Designed to work with LEED, Living Building Challenge and other standards.”  Some believe that it is only a matter of time before we see the WELL Building Standard or other similar health/wellness programs integrated into green building rating programs.

Scott Kriner is the president and founder of Green Metal Consulting Inc. He is a LEED Accredited Professional who began his career in the metal construction industry in 1981. His company is a member of the U.S. Green Building Council, the California Association of Building Energy Consultants and the Residential Energy Services Network (RESNET).

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