Sol Harris Day Architecture

What is the WELL Building Standard? Making Wellness More than a Trend in 2020

Wednesday, January 22, 2020
By Hannah Ayala, Project Architect | Carolina Silva, Interior Designer
In Design, Planning

What is the WELL Building Standard? Making Wellness More than a Trend in 2020

Each January so many of us look to start the new year off with resolutions, to eat healthier, lose weight, or just generally improve our wellness. Resolutions are about being better, but some of us will ditch these resolutions by the end of February, probably because we spend on average 90% of our day to day life indoors. As designers and leaders, it is our mission to design responsibly for people, and design for changing lifestyles. What if we could live and work in buildings that help us keep our New Year’s resolutions, while creating a better environment where we can all thrive? The WELL Building Standard is designed to do just that.

What is WELL? The WELL Building Standard represents a design strategy that focuses on people and creating a healthy and sustainable environment for them. The strategies are broken down between 10 major concepts that are already known to the design industry, including: Air, Water, Nourishment, Light, Movement, Thermal Comfort, Sound, Materials, Mind, and Community.

The WELL Building Standard is third-party certified by the Green Business Certification Incorporation (GBCI), which administers the LEED certification program and the LEED professional credentialing program.

WELL is a “performance-based system that monitors features of the built environment that impact human health and wellbeing”. Similar to other Design Strategies that may be more familiar, such as LEED and The Living Building Challenge, points are achieved in these different categories and it results in silver, gold, or platinum level certifications. Is it hard to get points? Absolutely not! From a design perspective, all it takes is making conscious decisions about the things we already do subconsciously. A large portion of WELL has to do with user culture, like providing resources for people to choose alternative transportation options to get to work, keeping the refrigerator or cafeteria stocked with healthy options, or emphasizing the stairs over the elevator.

Concepts like AIR, WATER, LIGHT, SOUND, THERMAL COMFORT and MATERIALS are known to the architectural and engineering community. We all know that Air and Water should not only be clean but also accessible to all. Materials, Lighting, Sound and Thermal Comfort are 4 elements that can make or break a space’s open concept design and productivity levels. Employee surveys show that thermal discomfort is the main reason why workers are discontented with their workplace.

What is the WELL Building Standard? Making Wellness More than a Trend in 2020

Less frequently talked about concepts, but not less important are MOVEMENT, NOURISHMENT, MIND and COMMUNITY. These days, everything that we need is at our fingertips, and we choose convenience over quality. As a part of the movement concept, WELL encourages the use of active furniture and wellness centers, as well as biking, walking, and the use of public transportation where available. By locating office, residential or educational buildings near amenities it increases the chances that people will take such routes as opposed to driving.

The same goes for healthy food choices, the simple act of placing a salad bar at the front end of a food counter increases the chances that someone will choose it over a bag of chips. By providing smaller plates, it helps us eat a more accurate portion of food. For ages we have focused on ways to keep our bodies healthy, but have neglected the concept of a healthy mind, so much so that it seems like a new concept; meanwhile, 1 in 3 adults are suffering from a mental illness. WELL’s Mind concept helps cover this category.

Who Benefits From WELL? WELL benefits employees, students, residents, basically any user within a space. WELL helps reinforce wellness, it celebrates beauty, and comfort, and supports each individual to keep them happy, healthy and productive. There is financial incentive. By investing in their spaces, employers and educators both benefit from more alert workers and less sick days.

Financial and health issues are the main reasons why employees and even students don’t perform at their best. Access to benefits programs, counselors or even just physical space to decompress can lighten that burden. As a result of creating a safe, inclusive and supportive environment, employers can reap the benefits of loyal employees, and lower turnover rates. Many Insurance companies even offer benefits and reduced rates to employers who implement and incentivize health and wellness driven office cultures. And of course, the environment is also benefitting in a time when all can agree it is desperately in need of our attention.

What Types of Projects? The beauty of WELL is that it can be utilized for virtually any type of project. There are 3 different architypes for projects in WELL; existing +renovations, core + shell, and of course total building. Its initial version focused on Offices, but the current version has expanded to make WELL Certification even more accessible to other project types such as residential, educational, and healthcare.

Moving Forward: WELL crosses the barriers within our industry. It will be important moving forward for engineers, consultants, and product manufacturers, as well as designers, to become educated on the technical aspects and requirements for achieving certification. The more educated we become the easier it will be to produce more projects that focus on the mental, physical, and sustainable heath of our clients. So, this year, instead of making personal resolutions, we hope to design spaces that will support everyone’s resolutions. Let’s make the conscious decision to design with better practices for today’s world, with tomorrow in mind. Let’s work together and think WELL in 2020.

For More Information on how to become a WELL AP, or how your building can become WELL Certified go to: or contact Hannah ( or Carolina (

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