The WELL Building Standard - Emperor’s new clothes, or a new useable wardrobe?

Lauren Lee

Lauren Lee
Senior Consultant, Assurity Consulting
21st May 2018

In fact, during a recent networking event , it was announced that “version 2.0 is being released at the end of the month and WELL Building Standard projects have increased by 205% since 2015 across the EU”.

Many, including myself, were sceptical of this new standard from the beginning. The main reason for this was that it can be very costly to implement, and the majority of the requirements were set to ‘American standards’ that might not sit easily with the UK’s way of working or the UK requirements.

When I recently visited a WELL certified ‘core and shell’ building – the hosts stated that introducing an ‘American set of standards’ into the UK was certainly difficult.

The WELL Building Standard currently consists of 102 individual metrics, sorted into seven categories; Air, Water, Nourishment, Light, Fitness, Comfort and Mind. In version 2.0, you will be able to select which country your project will be located in and thus be able to work with a country-specific set of standards (which should work better for most).

With the building I visited being unoccupied, it didn’t look too different from what you would expect a non-WELL certified building would look like. However, there was an added cost of nearly £150,000 reported to meet the specific requirements stipulated in this scheme. For example, one of the requirements of the WELL Building Standard is that only non-VOC (volatile organic compounds) paints and furnishings can be used. This can be an expensive requirement to comply with, without the added difficulty of them having to be locally sourced too. Also going forward, who’s responsible for the upkeep of the non-VOC paints and furnishings once the tenants move in? Tenants are ‘encouraged’ to buy non-VOC, but will that be achievable for all?

Additional air and water filtration had to be installed to obtain extra “points” which essentially, increased the projects’ performance against the standard. Carbon filters had been fitted at every air supply grille across the ‘100% air displacement system’. When I asked what means of water filtration they had put in place, they were proud to announce that an “all singing, all dancing” UV system has been installed on the main drinking water system. As a Legionella Risk Assessor, I know from experience in auditing these units that they only work on static water; and they will pick up any impurities from the pipework after the position of the unit within large buildings.

My views on the WELL Building Standard haven’t really changed, and I still believe that it is of a significant cost, both financial and in respects to the property manager’s time. As managed buildings are split between tenants, are there just too many variables to maintain the WELL Building Standard within a multi let building? In my opinion, a better idea would be to implement an independent monitoring regime for your building systems as it will reap the same benefits and save you a lot more cost in the long term. The WELL Standard is definitely here to stay, so let’s identify clearly where it can best add value, as well as cost.