Rachel Gutter – Chief Product Officer, International WELL Building Institute – What is a WELL Building Standard?

Air Date: 5-19-2017|Episode 460

This week on IAQ Radio we welcome Rachel Gutter, Chief Product Officer for the International WELL Building Institute. Ms. Gutter joined the International WELL Building Institute in late 2016 as senior vice president, bringing with her a wealth of cross-cutting experience in safer, healthier environments where they matter the most…

Full Description:

This week on IAQ Radio we welcome Rachel Gutter, Chief Product Officer for the International WELL Building Institute. Ms. Gutter joined the International WELL Building Institute in late 2016 as senior vice president, bringing with her a wealth of cross-cutting experience in safer, healthier environments where they matter the most: in school rooms across the globe. She joins IWBI after a nine-year career at the U.S. Green Building Council, where she founded the Center for Green Schools, convening and collaborating with a diverse group of partners, including teachers unions, the National PTA, the Department of Education, the Princeton Review, executives from Fortune 100 companies, and green building councils around the world. Under her direction, the Center published more than 1,000 pages of technical guides and original research, mobilized more than $275 billion in investments in LEED certified educational facilities, and deployed more than half a million volunteers to contribute $50 million in donated time to transform schools and campuses on every continent.

In her current role she is helping the International WELL Building Institute continue their development and implementation of the WELL Building Standards. According to the Institute this is the first standard of its kind that focuses solely on the health and wellness of building occupants. WELL identifies 100 performance metrics, design strategies, and policies that can be implemented by the owners, designers, engineers, contractors, users and operators of a building. It is based on a thorough review of the existing research on the effects of spaces on individuals and has been advanced through a thorough scientific and technical review. In order to achieve the requirements of the WELL Building Standard, the space must undergo a process that includes an on-site assessment and performance testing by a third party. Overall, the WELL Building Standard is designed to comprehensively cover the various individual needs of building occupants while also building a common foundation for measuring wellness in the built environment.

Z-Man’s Blog:

Building WELL

Nuggets mined from today’s interview:

The International WELL Building Institute™ (IWBI™) is a global organization headquartered in NYC. Twin brothers, Paul Scialla and Peter Scialla were inspired by LEED certification in the Goldman Sachs building and led other investors in forming IWBI, a public benefit corporation, a for profit entity where 51% of profit goes to the greater good. Triple bottom line: profit, people and planet. https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2013-03-19/goldman-sachs-s-scialla-twins-leave-for-home-design-firm

As Chief Product Officer, Rachel Gutter oversees products and product development. Current products include standards and educational products.

Most nonprofits struggle for years, the USGBC grew out of the boom in commercial construction, tickle me Elmo economics. While other rating and certifying systems are struggling, WELL has early adopters funding the dream. WELL has many partnerships with nonprofits and other groups and organizations.

Occupants are the biggest building expense. The WELL Building Standard™ (WELL™) is people centric. The focus on people drives building design and operation.

The air we breathe is the most important component of life. Onsite air testing/verification is the hallmark of the WELL Building Standard.

The WELL Building Standard focuses on the building, planetary health and human health. WELL is accelerating the conversation to healthier spaces and putting people first.

The true north of green building is planetary health.

Planetary health and human health are inextricably linked.

For technical assistance, the IWBI relies on a diffuse network of subject matter experts, practitioners and early adopters. The WELL Building Standard is evidence based. IWBI is assembling a broad-based group to peer review the recent ACGIH White Paper on VOCs.

IWBI encourages teams to seek dual certifications for their project and has released several crosswalks with leading green building programs for projects who are pursuing multiple certifications at once.

IWBI is focused on online training. IWBI is reaching core customers and champions with learning delivery to iPhones and tablets.

To date, 25 projects have been certified. Over 350 more projects are in progress, encompassing 76 million square feet, in 27 countries. There is an uptick of IWBI certifications in the US.  In China and India where high particulate levels and poor air quality are a major health concern, WELL is an aspirin.

The WELL Building Standard encompasses 7 core concepts: air, water, nourishment, light, fitness, comfort & mind. Extra credit is earned through innovation and superior performance.

IWBI relies on a diffuse network of experts, practitioners and early adopters to provide input and peer review their information.

WELLS’s Performance Verification Guidebook is transparent.  https://www.wellcertified.com/sites/default/files/resources/WELL%20Performance%20Verification%20Guidebook_0.pdf

The WELL Building Standard includes over 100 features. Certification considers both Preconditions and Optimizations.  Silver, gold and platinum awards are achievable. Buildings undergo a multiphase 3rd party document review and onsite performance verification by WELL Assessors who collect air and water samples, measure acoustics, daylight to confirm that building is performing as intended.

There is rigor behind the selection of WELL assessors, who learn by shadowing experienced assessors. Due to significant interest and growth of demand for 3rd party assessment, IWBI is ramping up assessor training.

Indoor air quality (VOC and particulate) is the toughest precondition to meet. WELL goes beyond the data provided through many of the most common devices for measuring indoor air quality and relies on  on-site air samples that are collected by a certified WELL Assessor and sent to a certified lab for analysis. Commissioning and universal design (AFA) may be the easiest preconditions to meet. Circadian lighting performance is measured.

Policy transforms the market for buildings outside the US.

Certification is awarded and recertification is done every 3 years. The program aspires to replace onsite assessors with real time measurements from built-in sensors. Sensor technology is improving and is more affordable.

Originally focused on commercial and institutional office space, IWBI has developed pilot programs for retail, commercial kitchens, multifamily residential, education, and restaurant projects, allowing them to engage at the cutting edge of the healthy building movement (where we: work, eat, sleep, play and worship.) A pilot program for  single family residential projects will be released in 2018.

USBGC has been very successful. Former leadership of USGBC are now at IWBI. Channel lessons learned at LEED to different objective, how to do it even better this time around.

WELL is a community standard, the application of human health practices at large scale. Rachel gets giddy every time a study moves us forward, “zero VOC” paints and other products are available at local hardware stores.

WELL seeks deeper relationships and to work in concert with other standards. Crosswalks aligning WELL with leading green building programs such as BRE and LEED have been released, making it easier for projects to pursue multiple certifications at once.

Cook+Fox Architects new LEED Platinum and WELL Gold office space is featured in High Performance Buildings magazine as a case study on sustainable design.

The WELL Building Standard offers performance based options for alternative adherence, for instance bathe cooling coils in UV light or demonstrate a written procedure to inspect coiling coils quarterly. “Cannot allow the perfect to be the enemy of the good”, the WELL standard seeks the ideal balance of the burden the market can take on.

WELL Masters Class Series, register interest on the website, https://www.wellcertified.com/

In addition to long term payback by reducing sick days and healthcare costs and increasing productivity, incremental costs of WELL Certification have been seen to be as low as $1 per square foot.

Z-Man signing off

Trivia Question:

What is the focus of the WELL Building Standard?


The WELL Building Standard focuses on the people in the building.