A Clear Path to IWBI’s New WELL v2™ Certification

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May 31, 2018

The International WELL Building Institute (IWBI) has recently launched it’s WELL V2 pilot, building off its original WELL Building Standard.

The original WELL was launched in 2014 and was the first building standard to place an emphasis on human health and happiness. IWBI crafted WELL’s certification standards after partnering with scientists, doctors, architects, and wellness thought leaders around the globe.

IWBI CEO and Chairman Rick Redrizzi stated WELL V2 includes, “a rating system that’s simpler, clearer, focused on the aspects that have the greatest impact, and designed for improved return across every metric.” The changes made to update WELL V2 have made it more accessible than ever to become certified.

IWBI’s efforts to improve WELL’s certification process is undoubtedly encouraging. However, one question remains: what is the clear path to certification?  

How WELL V2 Works

Becoming WELL certified was designed to be a straightforward process. The initial WELL certifications were applied to three different space types: new and existing buildings, new and existing interiors, and core and shell — WELL V2 takes a more universal approach by now being “one WELL for all project types.”

A project becomes certified if a certain number of Features are satisfied. Each Feature is a specific qualification designed by IWBI to help determine the overall WELL score--the more Features achieved, the higher the score. Certain Features are required to become certified--classified as Preconditions--while others are optional but are needed to achieve the higher Gold or Platinum certifications--these are known as Optimizations. One of the most noticeable changes is WELL V2’s updated feature set, which includes fewer preconditions and weighted optimizations, making the certification more accessible than ever.

A project’s overall WELL score is calculated during a Performance Verification. Performance verifications require an on-site assessment performed by a Well Assessor and for the applicant to submit letters of assurance or annotated documents provided by third-party testing.

There are over 100 different Preconditions and Optimizations to choose from to submit for a WELL V2 Performance Verification--so where to begin, and which should your project focus on?

The path to WELL V2 certification is actually simple: take the first step with air quality monitoring.

Conquering the WELL V2 Certification with Air Quality Monitoring

IWBI organizes the many Preconditions and Optimizations within WELL V2 into 10 defined Concepts: Air, Water, Nourishment, Light, Movement, Thermal Comfort, Sound, Materials, Mind, Community, and Innovations.

Why focus on air?

Indoor air quality can have a profound impact on human health. WELL V2 cites certain health effects from exposure to poor indoor air quality including headaches, dry throat, eye irritation or runny nose, asthma attacks, infection with Legionella bacteria, carbon monoxide poisoning and cancer. Exposure to air pollutants has also been shown to increase the risk of respiratory and cardiovascular diseases, myocardial ischemia, angina, high blood pressure and heart disease.

Unfortunately, indoor air is often 5x’s more polluted than outdoors. According to WELL V2, in the most recent global burden of disease study, household air pollution was rated as the third most important cause of ill health for the world’s population.

Aside from its impact on health, unhealthy indoor air is notorious for its financial burden, and has even been known to reduce a business’s productivity and revenues by 10%. According to a joint study conducted by Harvard University, poor indoor air quality can result in a $15,500 loss per employee per year.

While having healthy indoor air is clearly beneficial for both your occupants’ health and your bottom line, pursuing a WELL V2 certification for a virtually invisible environmental factor seems daunting. However, this quickly becomes seamless and cost-effective with air quality monitoring.

An air quality monitoring system can hold the key to an easy WELL V2 certification. Air quality monitors, like Awair’s Omni solution, track the factors that affect the quality of your indoor air and lets you know the moment your air is unsafe or unhealthy. Many of WELL V2’s Air Features can be accomplished with a few air quality monitoring tricks:

Monitor Particulate Matter

Exposure to particulate matter can lead to significant health effects--especially small particulate matter (classified as PM2.5) can penetrate the lungs, be absorbed in the bloodstream and lead to heart disease and other cardiovascular complications. Larger particulate matter (classified as PM10) can cause inflamed airways and other respiratory-related conditions.

A few WELL V2 Features focus on reducing particulate matter levels, such requiring air filtration. IWBI requires WELL V2 applicants to meet strict PM2.5 and PM10 thresholds. These thresholds are based on standards from the World Health Organization (WHO) and other regulatory bodies such as the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and are typically very specific--for example, an aspect of obtaining the Fundamental Air Quality Precondition (A01), PM2.5 levels must be less than 15 μg/m3.

Use Awair’s Omni air quality monitor to effectively track indoor particulate matter levels to make improvements to meet standards and to submit downloadable data to IWBI for WELL V2 certification.

Features fulfilled: A01 (P), A05 (O), A12 (O)

Monitor Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs)

Building materials, carpets, furniture, fabrics, cleaning products, adhesives, solvents, and many more everyday items are known to emit volatile organic compounds (VOCs). VOCs can easily be inhaled through the lungs and travel to the bloodstream. Regular exposure to VOCs can cause irritated eyes, throat, nose, and skin, and prolonged exposure has been linked to eczema flare-ups, hives, allergies, leukemia, and damage to the kidneys, liver, and central nervous system.

WELL V2 includes Features that require a demonstrated effort to reduce building VOC levels. Like particulate matter, IWBI has chosen specific thresholds for VOC levels based on recommendations from leading health organizations. For example, the Enhanced Air Quality Optimization (A05), which focuses on fostering an indoor environment that improves occupant health and performance, requires specific VOC thresholds to be met, such as keeping Formaldehyde levels less than 13.4 parts per billion (ppb).

Awair’s Omni includes an enterprise-grade VOC sensor, that — like it’s particulate matter sensor — can product both real-time and historical data to help make improvements or submit to IWBI for WELL V2 certification.

Features fulfilled: A01 (P), A05 (O), A13 (O)

Monitor Carbon Dioxide (CO2)

WELL V2 places an emphasis on proper building ventilation as a means for keeping indoor air quality at healthy levels. Spaces that are not well ventilated can cause its occupants to experience a variety of symptoms--often called sick building syndrome (SBS)--such as headaches, fatigue, dizziness, nausea, cough, sneezing, shortness of breath and eye, nose, throat and skin irritation.

Due to its profound impact on human health, WELL V2 includes Features that specifically target a building’s ability to provide a healthy amount of fresh air and ventilation. How exactly can ventilation be measured and tested? IWBI has found a simple solution--through carbon dioxide.

WELL V2 states that, since it’s difficult to test for every potential pollutant in a space, carbon dioxide is used as a proxy for other indoor pollutants. Particularly stale air will be filled with carbon dioxide--especially in high occupancy spaces--and carbon dioxide itself can lower productivity and cause drowsiness.

WELL V2 Features like Enhanced Ventilation (A06) require building CO2 levels less than 900 ppm--luckily, Awair Omni’s CO2 sensor can effectively help provide proof of effective ventilation.

Features fulfilled: A03 (P), A06 (O)

Monitor Humidity Levels

Indoor humidity levels must be kept at a precise balance to avoid damaging both building and occupant health. Too high humidity can cause occupant discomfort and can also cause mold and mildew growth, affecting allergies and health hazards. Too low humidity can cause occupants to experience eye, nose, skin, and throat irritation.

WELL V2 focuses on humidity in a few of its Features to ensure that the project in question isn’t prone to mold growth--to obtain the Microbe and Mold Control Optimization (A14), IWBI will look at indoor relative humidity levels to make sure they do not exceed 60%. The Construction Pollution Management Precondition (A04) also requires relative humidity levels to be below 60% during the required post-construction building air flush.

Awair’s Omni includes a humidity sensor that will make monitoring relative humidity levels and submitting relative humidity data for WELL V2 certification simple.

Features fulfilled: A04 (P), A14 (O)

Promote Air Quality Education

As an added bonus, the act of air quality monitoring itself can be counted toward the WELL V2 certification score--if you’ve chosen the right air quality monitor.

IWBI developed the Air Quality Monitoring and Awareness Optimization in an effort to encourage projects to become advocates for maintaining and spreading awareness for healthy indoor air quality. This Optimization rewards air quality monitoring with additional points that are easy to obtain if the project’s air quality monitor meets specific requirements. With 5 enterprise-grade, self-calibrating sensors, easily accessible data stored in a Dashboard software suite, and real-time sensor readings on the device display, Awair’s Omni is a great fit for accomplishing a WELL V2 certification.

Features fulfilled: A08 (O)

IWBI's launch of WELL V2 is a great sign for the ever-growing future of building health. Find out how the world-renowned engineering and design firm BuroHappold earned WELL Gold with Awair Omni by downloading the case study below.