Appendix B of the WELL™ Building Standard highlights 46 Parts of WELL Features that overlap with LEED™ v4. While those 46 referenced are a good starting point, in today’s blog and future blogs – I want to dive a little deeper into what some of the synergies and complements are between LEED and WELL. Let’s start at the beginning then – with an integrative design charrette.
Both LEED and WELL stress the importance of bringing stakeholders into the design process at the pre-design stage. With any building design and construction process, there are several moving parts so it is important to take the time in these early phases to set the stage well. With LEED, the intent of this integrative process is to get all disciplines involved in order to start thinking about the building systems as an interconnected network and not as separate entities – leading to a higher performing, more cost-effective solution. The requirement is to create a simple box energy model and a water budget analysis. (Read more here) With WELL, the focus is more on future occupant behavior. WELL uses the integrative design charrette to perform a values assessment and an alignment exercise so that design team members, owners and facilities managers understand the occupants’ needs and wellness goals. The WELL Building Standard’s Integrative Design Feature also requires a walk-through after construction completion to reiterate the importance of providing support for ensuring that the original project expectations will be maintained. While the intent for the integrative process is slightly different for LEED and WELL, it is easy to see how they complement each other. You cannot accurately model a building’s energy consumption without having an understanding of how the building will be used. Understanding occupants’ needs and goals will help the design team to create a more effective energy efficient solution. You also cannot thoroughly assess a building’s capacity to achieve many of these wellness initiatives if you are not able to analyze the building’s energy systems on a holistic level. There are energy consequences for many of the WELL Features, so it is important to account for those during this design charrette. One major difference to note, however, is that the integrative process is a credit for LEED – meaning it is not required to achieve certification but is encouraged. On the other hand, integrative design is required for WELL certification; it is a precondition.
Under WELL’s Air Concept is where you can find a lot of one for one synergies between LEED and WELL. Good indoor air quality is a major focus of both of these rating systems. Below are just few of these overlaps:
+ No Smoking Policies – Both LEED and WELL prohibit smoking within the building and within 25 feet of all entries, outdoor air intakes and operable windows. However, there are slight difference between the two requirements. LEED does allow for smoking within the building if the smoking areas can be compartmentalized (although it is still prohibited in all common areas). LEED also requires that there is signage within 10 feet of all entrances indicating the no-smoking policy. WELL requires signage also, but this signage must indicate the hazards of smoking and is located in areas beyond that initial 25 feet. There is an additional requirement in the WELL Building Standard to prohibit smoking on all decks, patios, balconies, rooftops, and other regularly occupied exterior building spaces.
+ VOC Reduction – Precondition 04 of the WELL Building Standard places low VOC requirements on all interior paints and coatings, interior adhesives and sealants, flooring, insulation, and furniture/furnishings. LEED’s Low-Emitting Materials Credit places very similar limits on building materials. This credit establishes thresholds for all of those same categories plus composite wood. (WELL accounts for composite wood under its Toxic Material Reduction Optimization 25.) However, for LEED you do not need to meet the threshold in all of the categories, but instead you achieve a different level of points for the number of compliant categories you are able to achieve. With WELL, the feature is a precondition so the building is required to meet the thresholds for all 5 categories. The only other slight variation comes in the Furniture category. For LEED, 90% of items must be compliant and in WELL 95% need to be compliant.
+ Indoor Air Quality Management During Construction – Both rating systems stress the importance of proper indoor air quality management processes during construction. For LEED, this involves developing an Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) Management Plan that follows the Sheet Metal and Air Conditioning National Contractors Association (SMACNA) Guidelines. The IAQ plan will need to incorporate strategies for HVAC protection, source control, pathway interruption, housekeeping, scheduling, and prohibiting smoking inside the building and within 25 feet of entrances during construction. WELL’s Precondition 07 Construction Pollution Management is essentially the same thing. By meeting the requirements for LEED the project team should also be set for meeting the requirements for WELL (or vice versa). Again, the largest difference here is that this is a precondition (requirement) for WELL Certification, but is a Credit (optional) for LEED Certification.
The last area I want to highlight is water quality. Water quality is not as direct of a connection as what you saw above under the air quality strategies, however, there is a very strong complementary relationship between the two rating systems for this concept. It is in this area that you can really see how LEED and WELL are meant to work together. There are 38 elements within the water provided to the building (that is directed for human consumption) that are tested by a WELL Assessor for WELL Certification. Feature 30 of the WELL Building Standard measures sediment and microorganisms within the water as indicators for the presence of other harmful contaminants. Feature 31 measures inorganic contaminants – things like lead, copper and mercury. Feature 32 measures organic contaminants, chemicals that are often leached into the water system from industrial activities. Feature 33 looks at agricultural contaminants, placing limits on the level of herbicides, pesticides and fertilizers found in the water occupants will consume. Features 30-33 (all preconditions) are all addressing consequences of poor stormwater management, but do not actually address how to properly manage the water before it gets to the point of use. WELL has additional features that suggest ways to treat and filter the water at the building level, but what if we could prevent these contaminants from getting into the water systems in the first place? That is where LEED comes in. There are at least 6 credits within LEED that directly relate to stormwater management. The Reduced Parking Footprint Credit tries to reduce the amount of impervious surface used in the project for parking, leading to less runoff that could overwhelm municipal stormwater systems. Construction Activity Pollution Prevention makes sure that water is properly managed during the actual construction of the building with strategies like protecting storm drain inlets and setting fertilizer discharge restrictions. The Site Assessment Credit makes sure teams are considering the hydrology of the site in the early design phases. Site Development takes a closer look at the soil to ensure that it can manage and filter rainwater. Rainwater Management does just that – it uses low-impact development and green infrastructure to manage water on site in a way that replicates the natural hydrology. Lastly, the Outdoor Water Use Reduction Prerequisite attempts to reduce our demand on the water to keep groundwater from being used at a faster rate than it can be replenished. These prerequisites/credits within the LEED Rating System are all long-term strategies that can help to increase a community’s water quality, and as the WELL Building Standard states: “Clean drinking water is a prerequisite for optimal health.” By improving the health and quality of the environment, there is a direct connection with improving the overall health of humanity. While there isn’t a credit for credit connection between the two rating systems for water quality, it is clear to see how the two build off of each other. Better stormwater management techniques lead to improved water quality – and on the flip-side – increased water quality awareness leads to a stronger demand for better stormwater management strategies.
At their core, LEED and WELL both come down to improving health through the built environment. With LEED it is the health of the planet and for WELL it is the health of people. Many people have wondered if it is a ‘this or that’ type of situation when it comes to LEED or WELL, but it is very clear to see how the two work together. I have only highlighted a few of these connections in this blog, but there are many more. Stay tuned for more insights in future blogs!