Introduction to WELL Building

Well Residences at 66 East Eleventh Street, New York City (photo credit: Delos)
Well Residences at 66 East Eleventh Street, New York City (photo credit: Delos)

“We believe that buildings should be developed with people’s health and wellness at the center of design.”

WELL building was the topic at last night’s U.S. Green Building Council – Miami Chapter program. Susan MacMurchy from Delos in New York and Jonathan Burgess from The Spinnaker Group led the discussion, which included an overview of the WELL Building Standard, and compared/contrasted it to the LEED Building Rating System.

MacMurchy’s company, Delos, is the founder of the WELL Building Standard and the International WELL Building Institute. WELL Certification is administered by the GBCI, the same organization providing independent third party certification for LEED.

Here is how the International WELL Building Institute describes their program:

The WELL Building Standard® is an evidence-based system for measuring, certifying and monitoring the performance of building features that impact health and well-being. WELL is administered by the International WELL Building Institute™ (IWBI), a public benefit corporation whose mission is to improve human health and well-being through the built environment. WELL is third-party certified by Green Business Certification Inc. (GBCI), which administers LEED certification and LEED professional credentialing.

The WELL Building Standard measures a building’s impact on human health by focussing on seven Concepts: Air, Water, Nourishment, Light, Fitness, Comfort and Mind.
"Introduction to WELL Building" at the USGBC Miami Chapter program, October 15 2015 at the University of Miami Life Science and Technology Park
“Introduction to WELL Building” at the USGBC Miami Chapter program, October 15 2015 at the University of Miami Life Science and Technology Park

Within each concept, strategies and technologies are used to support the health and well-being of the occupants. For instance, a WELL building’s air conditioning system goes beyond LEED’s focus on energy-efficiency to include advanced air purification filters to remove “dust, mites, pollen, carpet fibers, mold spores, bacteria, smoke and other particle matter from the air.” One of my favorite WELL building technologies is the “proprietary circadian lighting system that provides optimum light exposure for different times of day, such as energizing light in the morning and an evening ambiance that prepares the body for rest.”

There are three levels of WELL Certification:

Silver, Gold and Platinum. Silver is achieved by meeting 100% of the WELL preconditions in all seven Concepts.  Gold and Platinum levels can be attained by meeting additional “Optimization Features”.  The WELL Building Standard is a performance based program with 80% requiring field verification. This contrasts to LEED’s “prescriptive” approach with approximately 20% field verification and the rest in the “specs”.  While LEED for Building Operations + Maintenance does require post-completion re-certification, the other LEED certifications do not. All of the WELL Certification project types require a three-year recertification. The WELL Building Standard version 1.0 is currently applicable only commercial office buildings, including Core & Shell, Tenant Improvement and Whole Building New Construction. There are pilot programs for multifamily residential, education, retail and restaurant projects. Future certification programs will include sports & fitness centers, large transient buildings such as convention centers, airports & arenas, and health care facilities.

Delos WELL Building projects include 66 East 11th Street in New York City, the new CBRE headquarters in Los Angeles, Stay Well® hotel rooms at the MGM Grand Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas, and the project that started it all – the Meatpacking Loft in New York City

WELL+ LEEDOverall, the programs are highly compatible with WELL using many of the same standards as LEED – particularly in the areas of indoor air quality and daylighting

We have broadened the scope beyond just environmental sustainability – by including the best concepts of green technology, we have developed an integrated solution that addresses a complete human sustainability.

I think my friend Greg Hamra summed it up best when he said,

“WELL is to humans what LEED is for the environment”

Presenters (courtesy USGBC South Florida Chapter):

MacMurchySusan MacMurchy led a team of architects, designers, researchers, graphics experts and writers in the creation of the original DELOS brand. She contributed to the development of a system of passive therapies (now the WELL Building Standard) that enhance human sustainability and wellness in the built environment while not requiring behavior change to improve occupant health. Prior to her work with DELOS, Susan founded Big Blue Fish, a consulting firm whose strategic/creative marketing initiatives contributed to the success of Fortune 500 clients and a variety of sports- development organizations.

BurgessJonathan Burgess is the Vice President of Sustainable Operations for he Spinnaker Group, a premier green-building consulting firm based in South Florida. Jonathan recently helped complete a WELL feasibility study for a Title-1 school in San Diego, CA. In addition, he is the co-Founder of a program focused on utilizing the WELL building standard to aid in trauma resolution and therapeutic building design. He is one of the first to be trained in the standard, and is touring the State of Florida to help kick-start local conversations about WELL in communities across the Sunshine State.

Published byMelanieDawn

Melanie Dawn Molina Wood is a Miami native currently living in the historic downtown district. She has earned her LEED Green Associate accreditation, the NAR GREEN designation, and an Eco-broker credential. She is also a proud member of the US Green Building Council, and a member of the Sierra Club. For more information about sustainability in Miami, or to connect with a real estate agent anywhere in the world, contact Melanie Dawn by text/phone at 305.801.3133, or by email at

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