As promised earlier this year, the International WELL Building Institute has released the world’s first standard aimed at improving the fitness of building occupants through better-tuned indoor environments.

The performance-based WELL Building Standard Version 1.0 is a system for measuring, certifying and monitoring commercial and institutional building features that have an impact on human health and well-being. Beyond the features targeted, which include air, water, nourishment, light, fitness and comfort, the standard even addresses the human mind, according to IWBI.

“The public release of the WELL Building Standard v1.0 marks a momentous step forward in our efforts to bring health and wellness into indoor environments where we spend more than 90% of our time,” said Paul Scialla, IWBI founder and the mastermind behind the standard, in a statement to ENR. “Through the launch of WELL v1.0, we are creating a clear intersection for the wellness, sustainability and real estate communities to come together to support human health through the built environment globally.”

WELL v.1 contains 102 performance metrics, design strategies and procedures that building owners, designers, engineers, contractors, users and operators can apply to new construction and major renovations, tenant improvements, and core and shell construction. In the future, the standard will address multifamily buildings, retail shops and restaurants, sports facilities, convention centers, schools, health care buildings and existing buildings.

“The vision is an ambitious one,” says Michelle Moore, IWBI’s senior vice president.

IWBI launched the WELL Building Standard on Oct. 20 at its inaugural symposium on Well building, held in New Orleans and attended by more than 450 people. IWBI is a for-profit public benefit corporation, called a B-Corp. The nonprofit B Lab certifies that B-Corps. meet rigorous standards of environmental performance.

Members of the health and wellness sector and the real estate sector joined to create the standard, which has been under development for seven years. “Historically, these groups have not spoken to each other,” says Moore.

IWBI will administer the standard. The Green Building Certification Institute will provide third-party certification. GBCI also certifies LEED buildings for the U.S. Green Building Council's green-building rating system. 

The WELL standard is aligned with LEED and other sustainable-building programs. If a project is already registered online with LEED, all the information for LEED certification can be pulled into the WELL online system, says Moore.

Some 7.7 million sq ft of commercial, institutional and multifamily development is currently registered for certification under the WELL pilot program. CBRE Group Inc.’s global headquarters in Los Angeles received the first certification last November, under the WELL standard's pilot program. Other buildings certified through the pilot program are the Phipps Center for Sustainable Landscapes in Pittsburgh and the LYFE Kitchen restaurants in Chicago, Denver and Tarzana, Calif.

The CBRE offices are designed to improve productivity, sharpen focus, increase creativity, speed and accuracy, and reduce absenteeism, says IWBI. The pilot project targeted indoor air quality, lighting, water quality, visual acuity, physical comfort, acoustics and psychological impacts within the work environment.

Some of the features in the CBRE office building are air filtration systems, sound damping walls, volatile organic compound-free paints, water purification, ergonomic desks and chairs, biophilic plantings, energy-absorbing flooring and smart lighting systems. 

Early next year, IWBI expects to publish seven “WELLographies,” intended to support the WELL design and construction process. On the heels of the guides, IWBI will offer online and in-person seminars. Next spring, the group will launch a WELL standard professional accreditation program.

Creating a WELL-certified building adds 2% or less to the cost of construction, says Scialla, also founder and CEO of DELOS, a provider of building wellness systems. Certification itself costs about 75¢ per sq ft.

Moore adds: “This isn’t an issue of added cost, it’s an issue of added value. We look forward to documenting [the benefits of the program]. With more wellness-oriented buildings, we can measure [results] and demonstrate the business case.”