Understanding LEED, WELL, and the Differences

Understanding LEED, WELL, and the Differences

The WELL program was started by many of the same people involved in the original LEED program established by the U.S. Green Building Council back in 1998. The WELL program was created far more recently, in October 2014, which is likely one reason few of us are familiar with it.

In 2016, one of Canada’s largest banks was the first bank in the country to be WELL certified. The bank’s employees at this location can enjoy the benefits of the WELL Building Standard® program, which is designed to help protect the health and work environment of the building users.

Many people may not have heard of the WELL program. Further, by saying it is designed to help protect health and the work environment, readers might ask, isn’t that what the LEED certification program is designed to do? The answer to that question is yes, but that is not the key focus of the LEED program. To explain the differences easily and concisely, we can describe the programs like this:

  • LEED is designed to focus on buildings.
  • WELL places its focus on people.

Building on these basics, here is a bit more information about WELL, how it compares to LEED, and what it takes to be WELL certified.

The WELL program was started by many of the same people involved in the original LEED program established by the U.S. Green Building Council back in 1998. The WELL program was created far more recently, in October 2014, which is likely one reason few of us are familiar with it.

As many of us know, in order to be LEED certified, a facility must meet specific standards to demonstrate that it has taken significant steps to reduce water, energy, and fuel consumption, reduce the amount of waste it generates, as well as other steps to help reduce the facility’s environmental footprint. LEED requirements also would include designing the building to protect natural resources. As you can see, these standards are very building-focused.

Now, let’s take a look at WELL. In order to be WELL certified, a facility must meet seven criteria, or “concepts,” in WELL program terminology. These include the following:

Air: In most cases, a facility must pass at least two indoor air quality checks; one before it is occupied and the second after it has been occupied for several months.  The process is designed to ensure that healthy indoor air quality is maintained once the facility is fully operational. To accomplish this, the WELL program requires that building windows are operational (can open and close); no smoking is allowed in the facility; all building finishes and interiors are selected so that they meet strict standards about off-gassing; and the cleaning solutions used to maintain the facilities are not only green-certified but release few if any volatile organic compounds (VOCs).

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