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The WELL Certificate: For an Office Where People Work and Live Well

Article February 16, 2018  |  Text by Lucie Kolomá Text by Lucie Kolomá

Very soon we should be seeing a Czech office building acquire the WELL certificate for the very first time. This certificate assesses the influence that a building has upon the people inside it. The certification process primarily looks into factors that affect the health and overall comfort of a given space’s users. For a company’s building to acquire a WELL certificate, there can’t for example be Coca-Cola in the vending machines, the bike racks should be within 30 meters of the entrance, and there should also be a solution against the unwanted diffusion of odors.

The overarching idea behind WELL is that people deserve to live, work, meditate, and in short to exist in spaces that will permanently provide them with a pleasant environment, with everything that entails. This certification can be acquired e.g. by administrative buildings, for which WELL’s certificate is a guarantee to their employees/inhabitants that they will have great working conditions.

This certificate is acquired on the basis of measurements of several key environmental parameters by an independent third party. Each of these parameters, meanwhile, has a different weight in the final scoring. Then once every three years the WELL certificate’s validity must be verified through repeated measurements and confirmed through recertification.

LEED vs. WELL

Here in the Czech Republic we have rich experience with a number of “green” certifications that document a structure’s reduced environmental impact on its surroundings. Almost every newly constructed office building today meets the requirements for the BREEAM or LEED certificates.

WELL, meanwhile, is still a novelty here for now—one that many an office center would like to acquire. However, some people who aren’t in the know tend to confuse WELL with, indeed, green certifications such as LEED.

Actually, let’s stop for a moment and talk about LEED. This is a globally recognized certification scheme, and it’s the one with the fastest-growing number of certifications. It assesses a building either as it’s being built or afterwards. It mainly evaluates the building’s impact on its surroundings, its water and energy consumption, the materials used, the quality of its internal environment, and the user qualities needed for working effectively. For many buildings, LEED pays off due to how a green building amounts to much lower operating costs.

The WELL certification, meanwhile, represents a process for measuring and monitoring the influence of a building’s structural elements on its inhabitants’ comfort and health. This is also a globally recognized scheme, but unlike the case for LEED, the number of WELL certifications granted is small.

In Doctors’ Good Hands

The WELL Building Standard was first introduced in the USA in 2014, and it has its roots in medical research that examines the connection between buildings — in which we spend 90% of our time — and the health and mental comfort of their inhabitants. At present a total of 54 projects (not all are office buildings) worldwide have acquired WELL certificates of various levels. There are currently 179 projects on the WELL waiting list.

Among those waiting in line in the Czech Republic you’ll find for example a project by Skanska Property, which is requesting a certification in the Core & Shell category. So far five projects have obtained certification in this category: two in Canada, two in France, and one in Australia.

In September 2017 the building called 720 Bourke Street in Melbourne achieved Australia’s first ever WELL Certified™ Gold rating for the shell and core.

“For us, WELL represents yet another step towards workplaces that are focused on employees’ needs and comfort. In 2009 we were the first developer in Central and Eastern Europe to start constructing all of our buildings in compliance with the LEED certification system. Now that LEED has become a common standard, we’re going a step further. WELL is an innovative tool that will help us focus more strongly on creating workplaces that are healthy and hospitable,” says Katarzyna Zawodna, the president of Skanska Commercial Development Europe.

A New Generation of Employees

In recent years we can see dynamic changes in how buildings are approached — in how they’re planned, built, and operated. It’s now become the norm to choose environmentally friendly solutions. But this change in direction hasn’t stopped, and so the new era and new generation are emphasizing not only buildings’ environmental friendliness, but also their effects on the people inside them. For office buildings, that means employees.

Key features of WELL certification.

Employee churn is a constant problem for many companies, and they deal with it in a variety of ways. More and more employers are trying to improve their employees’ working spaces, especially if those employees are from the “more demanding” millennial generation.

This means various solutions such as offering creative spaces, breaking spaces up, and a certain degree of flexibility. A financial reward should, in short, not be the only factor that’s attracting you to your workplace. More and more employers are aware of this fact and are assuming responsibility for their employees’ comfort.

What are the specific requirements that a building should meet in order to acquire a WELL certificate? We will cover this topic in March. Stay tuned.