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28 Sep, 2017

Get WELL Soon: What AEC Marketers Should Know About the Newest Building Standard

Susan Dawson

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Read time: 3 minutes, 27 seconds

Background: The WELL Building Standard was briefly discussed at SMPS DC's Design 101 program in May 2017. GHT Limited worked on the ASID Headquarters project, the first space in the world to earn both LEED and WELL Platinum Certification under WELL Building Standard™ v1. We asked Susan to write a follow-up post further discussing this new standard.

As AEC Marketers, we have both a passion and commitment to staying abreast of the latest trends – knowing that such expertise improves our ability to effectively communicate our firm’s unique differentiators. In keeping with SMPS’s mission - Advocate, Educate, Connect - we’re proud to present a two-part series on our industry’s latest craze: the WELL Building Standard®.

Since its pilot launched in 1998, the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) building rating system by the United States Green Building Council (USGBC) has transformed the AEC world and our approach to planning, design and construction, as well as how marketers communicate our firm’s portfolio and expertise. With research and increased global awareness of the built environment’s impact on humans, the WELL Building Standard builds upon key concepts set forth by LEED and marks the next critical step towards truly sustainable design.

What is the WELL Building Standard and how is it different from LEED?

The LEED rating system presents a set of standards, codes and minimum requirements for designers, engineers and contractors to create energy-efficient spaces, for every facility type from commercial office buildings to schools and healthcare. Launched in October 2014, the WELL Building Standard complements the LEED system while building upon it – in response to evidence- and performance-based research by scientists who sought to better understand the relationship between humans and the built environments they occupy.

By harnessing the occupant’s environment as a vehicle to support human health, well-being and comfort, the WELL Building Standard offers a variety of strategies, programs and technologies to be integrated into a project. These techniques operate around 7 key concepts (Air, Water, Nourishment, Light, Fitness, Comfort & Mind) and are similar in structure to the LEED categories we’re used to seeing on scorecards. By employing techniques and strategies related to these seven concepts, this standard sets forth a clear path for buildings to improve occupant nutrition, fitness, mood, sleep, comfort and performance. These strategies share many similarities with LEED prerequisites and credits, while integrating findings from years’ worth of clinical research conducted by the International WELL Building Institute (IWBI).

What kinds of projects are seeking WELL certification?

If you haven’t already encountered or been a part of a WELL project, there’s a good chance that you will be soon. Projects currently considering WELL include:

  1. Projects that are already seeking LEED certification (as many of the strategies sync up)
  2. Tenant interiors projects (easier threshold to achieving certification, while remaining more cost-effective)
  3. Build-to-suit clients (who will occupy their facility for many years, thus achieving a higher ROI on the initial costs to achieving WELL)
  4. In the long term…healthcare, schools and even entire communities!

What types of clients are seeking WELL certification?

While there is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to clients, it’s a safe bet that owners who value innovation and their employees will be the first to build and occupy WELL-certified spaces. The first WELL-certified spaces in DC include headquarters for two innovative nonprofits who are seeking to transform the built environment: the American Society of Interior Designers (ASID) and the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA). As the pioneers for this new rating system, both organizations recognize the value of seeking WELL-certified space for their new headquarters and the return on investment that could be realized by creating a space that actually improves their employees’ health and performance – from reducing sick days to improving sleep using circadian lighting strategies.

In the future, this AEC marketer thinks it’s safe to say that such forward-thinking companies as Google, Amazon, and Facebook could be the next adopters of this new rating system, which inherently focuses on improving the performance of the company’s number one expense: its workers.

What does this mean for me as an AEC Marketer?

Much like the introduction of the LEED certification system, AEC marketers should expect to be nimble and respond quickly to the latest innovations in our industry. One of the biggest struggles anticipated in responding to an RFP for a client is seeking WELL certification is demonstrating a relevant portfolio without having completed WELL projects, which are few and far between. Teams may be able to differentiate themselves by drawing attention to outstanding LEED and sustainable design achievements, but look to projects where your firm innovated to set your proposal apart from your competitors. The WELL Building Standard presents the latest, most cutting-edge innovation yet from our industry. By connecting the dots and helping your client understand where your team thought outside the box, you may soon be drafting your own press release on your firm’s first WELL certified project.

Author Susan Dawson, LEED AP BD+C is the Marketing & Communications Manager for GHT Limited, a leading DC MEP engineering consulting firm based in Arlington, VA. GHT Limited served as the MEP Engineer of Record for both the ASID and ASLA projects – the first two projects to be certified WELL in the District of Columbia. For more information and tips on responding to WELL project RFP’s, please email Susan at