Buildings That Bond Us To Nature: The WELL Building Standard is here

Jim Mumford, GRP, CLP; owner, Good Earth Plant Company and Greenscaped Buildings, San Diego, California (http://www.goodearthplants.com)

The LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) standard is a familiar source of pride and brand marketing for office buildings, hotels, schools, and community projects. In 14 years, the LEED green building certification system has become the standard for energy-saving, cost-efficient building in the United States and abroad.

People who have not considered themselves all that “green” are now thinking more seriously about ways green building practices can improve health and well-being. Access to daylight, outdoor views, active design, improved air exchange, and better materials choices are the norm when designing and constructing new buildings.

I am a board member and supporter of Green Plants for Green Buildings (GPGB.Org). I became a board member one year ago as a means to advocate for its mission to communicate the aesthetic, environmental, productivity and health benefits of plants in the built environment. Lack of recognition of nature connections indoors is the one glaring omission of the LEED standard.

An area of interest and concern is integrating the higher concept of Biophilia, the natural bond between humans and nature, into shaping our everyday environment. Our hope is that people will continue to recognize why humans need nature in their everyday lives; creating optimal mental and physical health.

When I first heard about the new WELL building standard, I thought, “Yes, this is exactly what I’ve been looking for!” Last October the GPGB board sent me as its representative to the first annual WELL program, which was in conjunction with the U.S. Green Building Council GreenBuild event in New Orleans. I left enthusiastic about WELL’s potential for revolutionizing our industry.

The WELL Building Standard® doesn’t compete with the LEED standard. Instead, it works seamlessly and adds thoughtful new building design considerations focused on a different goal.

In October 2014, the International WELL Building Institute (IWBI) publicly released version 1.0 of the WELL Building Standard, marking a momentous step in our efforts to bring health and wellness into indoor environments. According to IWBI Founder Paul Scialla, “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.”

The WELL Building Standard® includes seven specific categories that encompass conditions which enhance the health and well-being of building occupants, holistically integrated into building architecture and design: Air, Water, Nourishment, Light, Fitness, Comfort and Mind.

The WELL Building Standard is third-party certified through IWBI’s collaboration with the Green Building Certification Institute (GBCI) , the certification body that administers the LEED Green Building Rating System. The IWBI awards certification at one of three levels: Silver, Gold or Platinum, similar to the different levels of LEED. WELL recognizes the importance of adding living plants to interior spaces. Indoor potted plants and vertical gardens or walls are specifically called for as part of the certification standards.

One of the important qualities of WELL is that it is grounded in solid science. WELL is the culmination of seven years of medical research and collaboration with leading doctors, scientists, architects and other wellness professionals. A few of the visionary world leaders supporting the WELL Standard include Deepak Chopra, former Congressman Richard Gephardt, sustainability activist and actor Leonardo DiCaprio, as well as leading physicians from the Mayo and Cleveland Clinics.

Last October, the Phipps Center for Sustainable Landscape in Pittsburgh became the first institution in the world to achieve WELL Platinum Pilot Certification. To date, nearly eight million square feet of projects have been registered or certified through WELL.

GPGB is leading the way by leveraging our green network to collaborate with other industry organizations to put plants in every room. We provide the highest-level education to 14 professional associations in the U.S. and Canada about the value of live plants and connections to nature in the built environment. GPGB will continue to lead the way by embracing and promoting the WELL Building Standard®.

To support the GPGB Mission or make a donation, please go here.