Facility Assessment

A New Standard for Healthy Building: The WELL Health-Safety Rating System

By: Sydney Covey

Oct 20, 2020

Companies around the world are wondering when, and how, to reopen their offices or retail spaces. The safety of both employees and visitors is a top priority for owners everywhere. The WELL Health-Safety Rating system, developed by the International WELL Building Institute (IWBI), provides a framework for optimizing the built environment amidst a pandemic. This new rating system focuses on operation and maintenance strategies within a building or space, rather than huge capital improvement campaigns, to address a post-COVID-19 indoor environment. An outline for our industry, the WELL Health-Safety Rating system offers a guide for large and small businesses alike to prepare their reopening plans.

What is the WELL Health-Safety Rating System?

WELL’s Health-Rating system describes itself as “an evidence-based, third-party verified rating for all new and existing building and facility types focusing on operational policies, maintenance protocols, stakeholder engagement and emergency plans.” It is applicable to any facility type and is intended to be flexible, scalable, and accessible. This rating system also provides guidelines for mitigating the spread of disease and prioritizing the overall health and safety of a building’s users. To be certified, a building must meet 15 out of 21 features across the following core areas:

  • Cleaning and Sanitization Procedures
  • Emergency Preparedness Programs
  • Health Service Resources
  • Air and Water Quality Management
  • Stakeholder Engagement and Communication
  • Innovation

Based on direct feedback from IWBI’s Task Force on COVID-19 and Other Respiratory Infections, the system was designed to arm businesses of all sizes with the confidence to reopen and occupants the confidence to re-enter the space. WELL’s Health-Safety Rating system addresses both standard operating procedures as well as emergency response periods, giving its benefits longevity despite the current environment.

How is it different from other certifications?

This rating system differs from more traditional options in that it is not designed for owners or facility managers to undertake capital improvements. Instead, the Health Rating System offers insight into how a space is currently responding to the health and safety of its occupants. While the system does offer guidance on potential capital improvement projects, its primary focus is on both immediate and long-term health needs that have been exacerbated by COVID-19. The system achieves this goal by addressing issues that can be mitigated by operation and management strategies within a facility. The WELL Health-Safety Rating system also focuses on occupant crisis mental health, sick leave policies, and health insurance benefits.

Is it right for my building?

Because adopting the rating system does not require capital improvement projects or prerequisites, the possible adaptations for facility managers and owners are almost endless. With scaled pricing options available, the WELL Health-Safety Rating system is worth considering for any business planning to reopen a physical space.

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