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Best known for delivering health and wellness benefits to a building’s occupants, The WELL Building Standard presents a powerful opportunity for facilities leaders. By targeting outcomes that reach beyond operational efficiency, WELL elevates the significance of facilities, expanding the traditional value proposition.

At the Higher Ed Facilities Forum, Rachel Gutter, President of the International WELL Building Institute, discussed how the standard can help facilities organizations earn a well-deserved seat at the table, as well as IWBI’s vision for the implementation of WELL across college campuses.

What Is the WELL Building Standard?

Administered by the IWBI, the WELL Building Standard is the first-of-its-kind framework to focus solely on elevating human health. To date, over 3,500 projects in 55 countries are pursuing  certification by the performance-based rating system.

WELL takes the stance that buildings can actually be agents of public health that help occupants flourish through intentional design, maintenance, and policy strategies. While there are some synergies with LEED, the key differentiator is that WELL is entirely human-centered. 

"We think of ourselves as leading a second wave of sustainability"

“At IWBI, we think of ourselves as leading a second wave of sustainability. Rather than trying to reinvent the wheel, we're building upon and propelling forward the movement of green buildings and sustainability,” Gutter said. “We understand more about the relationship between our environment and our health than ever before, and WELL puts what we know into practice.” 

The latest version of the standard, WELL v2, was launched in May 2018. It includes interventions in ten main areas, each with distinct health intents: Air, Water, Nourishment, Light, Movement, Thermal Comfort, Sound, Materials, Mind, Community, and Innovation.

This updated, more flexible framework reflects IWBI’s recognition that health isn’t a one-size-fits-all situation. There are a small number of preconditions that projects must pursue in order to achieve certification, and then project teams are able to build their own scorecards based on what matters most for their organization or campus. 

The process is similar to LEED in terms of registration and verification, though WELL requires recertification every three years. Thanks to the rapid development of sensors, Gutter shared that IWBI’s third-party testing agents are able to measure components in real-time with “an incredible level of precision.”

WELL Elevates the Significance of Facilities Leadership 

The WELL Building Standard presents an opportunity to expand the traditional value proposition of facilities management by targeting outcomes that impact the university at large. Higher Ed facilities administrators can step up as agents of change for health, delivering benefits like:

  • Enhancing the educational experience
  • Improving the recruitment of staff and students
  • Maximizing the performance and productivity of building occupants
  • Building brand equity
  • Transforming campus culture
  • Creating research funding, opportunities and exposure for students and faculty

“One of the exciting things about WELL is how many stakeholders from the campus it brings together and the widespread impact it has,” Gutter said. “The notion of having a seat at the table is magnified by the standard because it reflects that facilities executives deliver benefits beyond just the building.”

Gutter emphasized that higher education is an emerging sector for WELL, one with tremendous opportunity. 

“The new generation in the workforce wants more than just a high-paying salary and benefits,” she said. “WELL takes that aspiration and puts it through a meaningful framework with direct outcomes to the organization. It presents an invaluable opportunity to catalyze our built spaces as mechanisms to deliver health and wellness benefits to all people within them.”

Interested in collaborating with the sharpest minds in higher ed facilities? Well, join us at HEFF 2020 taking place April 5-7 in Pasadena, CA.

Hannah Chenoweth

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Hannah Chenoweth is a writer for influence group. Passionate about collaborating with thought leaders in real estate, design, construction & facilities management.

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