The International WELL Building Institute launched the WELL Building Standard (WELL) v1.0 in October 2014. WELL focuses solely on the health and wellness of building occupants.

“The WELL Building Standard is a combination of harm avoidance and health improvement,” says Nathan Stodola, the vice president of product development for the International WELL Building Institute. “A WELL building must address known dangers such Legionella and formaldehyde, as well as address quality of life improvements, like acoustic comfort and biophilia.”

According to, the “biophilia hypothesis” is the idea that humans possess an innate tendency to seek connections with nature and other forms of life.

The WELL Building Standard is a performance-based system for measuring, certifying, and monitoring features of the built environment that impact human health in existing and new commercial and institutional buildings. WELL v1.0 is geared towards office buildings, with typologies for education, retail, restaurant, commercial kitchen and multifamily residential, in the pilot phase. More than 16 million square feet of projects have already registered or been certified through WELL.

The WELL Building Standard measures and monitors specific features within a core set of criteria:

Air: Optimize and achieve indoor air quality by promoting clean air and reducing or minimizing sources of indoor air pollution. 

Water: Optimize water quality while promoting accessibility.

Nourishment: Encourage healthy eating habits by providing healthier food choices, behavioral cues and knowledge about nutrient quality.

Light: Minimize disruption to the body’s circadian rhythm using window performance and design, light output and lighting controls, and task-appropriate illumination levels.

Fitness: Utilize building design technologies and knowledge-based strategies to encourage physical activity.

Comfort: Create an indoor environment that is distraction-free, productive and soothing.

Mind: Promote health and wellness awareness by providing regular feedback and information about the environment through design elements and state-of-the-art technology.

These seven areas cover more than 100 features that impact the health, comfort or knowledge of occupants. WELL certifications exist for new and existing buildings, interiors, and core and shell. WELL is set up in a way that will be familiar to users of green building standards, but does not encompass considerations of energy use or eco-friendliness.

“We’ve made it a point to not make our standard a green standard,” says Stodola, though there will inherently be some overlap in strategies.

Guidelines And Certifications

Facility cleaning managers and other building professionals can learn about and achieve the WELL AP credential (, which denotes them as an expert in healthy building strategies.  Once earned, managers get access to a range of resources, including the Cleaning Services Request Template. This template provides an overview of the cleaning protocols in the WELL Building Standard. 

Several organizations have put forth guidelines for achieving improved human health outcomes in buildings, and not just for new construction. Even given the limitations of existing facilities and tight budgets, there’s still a lot that facility cleaning managers can do to foster wellness.

One hallmark strategy is to focus on stairs and stairwells to promote physical activity. That means making and keeping existing staircases accessible, visible and attractive. Active Design Guidelines were created in 2010 by the City of New York for its buildings.

“One of the big wins that was achieved was opening up the stairwells in the vast majority of New York City’s public buildings,” says Joanna Frank, executive director of the Center for Active Design, which was created to promote the guidelines.

Use of stairs, even six flights a day, has been shown to have a real tangible effect on people’s risk of stroke and improvement of their health, Frank says.

At the most basic, stairs need to be opened up from a security standpoint so people can travel between desired floors without setting off alarms or getting locked out. Ideally, stairwells would have glass doors, be painted in bright colors and have attractive lighting, so that people can easily identify their location and be reminded and encouraged to use them. Even back-of-the-house stairwells accessible only by staff with a key fob should be treated with added consideration and attention to cleanliness, to encourage their use.

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