The WELL Health-Safety Rating: An Overview

Michael Tobias
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    WELL is the leading certification system for health and wellbeing in buildings. The certification requirements are provided in the WELL Building Standard, and they include features that help prevent infectious diseases like COVID-19. However, getting the full certification can be a difficult and time-consuming project, and prevention measures for coronavirus are urgent.

    The WELL Health-Safety Rating was developed to help building owners adapt in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic. It is based on the WELL Building Standard, but without including all the requirements for a full certification. Instead, the Health-Safety Rating focuses on design features that are effective against common germs - not only viruses, but also bacteria and fungi.

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    This new rating also focuses on features that can be deployed quickly and without major investments. This way, building owners can improve their resilience against COVID-19 with the speed demanded by the ongoing emergency. The WELL Health-Safety Rating is reviewed and verified by Green Business Certification Inc. (GBCI), the organization that reviews and approves the LEED certification for buildings.

    How Does the WELL Health-Safety Rating Work?

    The WELL Health-Safety Rating rating is based on WELL v2, but there are important differences with respect to the complete building certification:

    • The WELL Health-Safety Rating consists of 21 design features, and building owners must choose any combination of at least 15.
    • There are no scores and certification levels, other than meeting at least 15 features.
    • The rating is available for new constructions and existing buildings.
    • The certification must be renewed once per year, to ensure the building stays compliant.

    Building owners can also propose their own features, by providing documented proof that they achieve the goals of the WELL Health-Safety Rating. These are called Alternative Adherence Paths (AAP), and owners can propose up to three per project. Additional AAPs may be submitted by paying a fee.


    To display the WELL Health-Safety Rating logo and plaque, building owners must agree to have their projects listed in the International WELL Building Institute (IWBI) public directory. Owners can request to keep their projects private during the registration and certification process. Cnce a building gets the rating, it can only be disclosed if the owner agrees to have the project listed in the public directory.

    The IWBI directory displays the following information: project name, address, project type, enrollment date, owner identity, owner organization type, team information, gross square footage, date the rating was achieved, and other information that identifies the project. Submitted drawings, schematics and other design documents are not published unless the owner gives direct permission.

    WELL Health-Safety Rating: Five Performance Areas

    The WELL Health-Safety Rating focuses on five performance areas, which encompass the 21 design features. They are summarized in the table below:

    Performance Area


    Cleaning and sanitization procedures (4)

    -Support handwashing
    -Reduce surface contact
    -Improve cleaning practices
    -Select preferred cleaning products

    Emergency preparedness programs (5)

    -Develop emergency preparedness plan
    -Create business continuity plan
    -Plan for healthy re-entry
    -Provide emergency resources
    -Bolster emergency resilience

    Health service resources (5)

    -Provide sick leave
    -Provide health benefits
    -Support mental health recovery
    -Promote flu vaccines
    -Promote a smoke-free environment

    Air and water quality management (5)

    -Assess ventilation
    -Assess and maintain air treatment systems
    -Develop legionella management plan
    -Monitor air and water quality
    -Manage mold and moisture

    Stakeholder engagement and communication (2)

    -Promote health and wellness
    -Share food inspection information

    The WELL Health-Safety Rating is designed to be flexible and scalable, suitable for organizations of all sizes. The rating can be used in facilities like sports venues, movie theaters, hotels, restaurants, retail stores, offices, academic institutions, multifamily buildings and manufacturing plants.

    The rating was developed by the IWBI Task Force on COVID-19, a team of nearly 600 experts that includes professionals, government and academic institutions. The task force has experts from areas like healthcare, architecture, engineering and real estate.

    As of July 2020, the WELL Building Standard has been applied in more than 4,300 projects across 62 countries, covering more than 590 million square feet. These projects have been driven by more than 200 WELL Faculty members and 10,000 WELL Accredited Professionals.

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    Tags : WELL wellness indoor environmental quality coronavirus covid-19

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