Engineering in Progress

The WELL building standard

Health and wellness of employees have become a goal for many companies and building owners. Healthy employees are more productive, more innovative, are less likely to look for other employment and result in lower overhead costs through the reduction of health insurance premiums and sick days. While an owner knows how employee health and wellness can benefit the bottom line it is not always obvious how to achieve it. That is where The WELL Building Standard® comes in!

Post Date


The WELL Building Standard, or WELL for short, is the first health and wellness standard exclusively intended to promote human health and wellbeing in the built environment through building design, construction, operations and owner policies. The standard was launched in 2014 by Delos Living a health-centric real estate service company and is currently administered by the International Well Building Institute, IWBI™. In the few short years of existence, 778 projects are registered or certified worldwide with 225 projects registered in the US and 32 projects certified in the US. Currently, Affiliated Engineers is responsible for MEP design for 3 registered WELL projects throughout the nation.

WELL is written with office buildings in mind because for a typical office building, with a 30-year life cycle, an estimated 92% of costs are approximated to be personnel costs. While the standard was written for offices, it’s methodology can be applied to any building type; from a hospital to a laboratory. The standard contains seven concepts Air, Water, Nourishment, Light, Fitness, Comfort, and Mind. Each concept contains multiple features consisting of preconditions (required) and optimizations (necessary to achieve higher levels of certifications). There are 100 features total and not all features apply to every building.

The standard requires third-party verification to achieve certification and uses on-site audits, measurements, and performance testing. Samples are collected and sent to third-party labs for analysis.

WELL is pushing architects and engineers to rethink our designs and consider design impacts to the 11 systems of the human body; Cardiovascular System, Digestive System, Endocrine System, Immune System, Integumentary System, Muscular System, Nervous System, Reproductive System, Respiratory System, Skeletal System, Urinary System. It truly is unique to be pushing design metrics past the avoidance of “sick building syndrome” (ventilation related) and into advanced evidence-based strategies.

One of the WELL projects that Affiliated Engineers is designing is a new mixed-use office building in Madison owned by American Family Insurance named “The Spark.” The design characteristic contributing to achieving most of the WELL features (8 of them!), is the dedicated outdoor air system (DOAS). The DOAS allows WELL features in both the Air and Comfort concept categories to be met including:

  • WELL 01 Air Quality Standards
  • WELL 03 Ventilation Effectiveness
  • WELL 05 Air Filtration
  • WELL 16 Humidity Control
  • WELL 17 Direct Source Ventilation
  • WELL 20 Outdoor Air Systems
  • WELL 75 Internally Generated Noise
  • WELL 76 Thermal Comfort

A notable unique optimization that “The Spark” is on track to achieve from the water concept category is the water treatment feature. The water treatment features require specialty treatment to drinking water systems including activated carbon filters to remove organic chemicals, sediment filters to remove suspended solids and UVGI treatment to eliminate microbial concerns.

WELL lighting concept encourages building owners to contentiously coordinate building massing, fenestration sizing, glare reduction strategies and lighting design to maximize the occupant experience. The American Family project is on track to achieve the following lighting features; Visual Lighting Design, Circadian Lighting Design, Electric Light Glare Control, Solar Glare Control, Automated Shading And Dimming Controls, Right To Light and Daylighting Fenestration.

Shana will be participating in a panel discussion, May 1, 2018, about “Integrated Design Lessons from an Urban Building, Pursuing LEED v4 C&S and ID+C and WELL v1 C&S N&E!