Article | Creating Resilience

Building Certifications And The Future Of Wellness And Sustainability

October 3, 2022

Building Certifications And The Future Of Wellness And Sustainability

The last few years have witnessed a sea change in how the world views health and wellness, the environment and sustainability, and building certification systems like LEED and WELL have been helping to lead the revolution. Of course, with regard to health and wellness COVID-19 is perhaps the first thing that comes to mind; for over two years public health has been at the forefront of our lives. The sudden introduction of remote working because of a highly transmissible virus meant that companies were forced to think about workplace health and wellness to an extent unprecedented in modern times. 

But there has also been a growing awareness among organizations that the buildings in which their employees work, and how those buildings affect the environment, influence how they are perceived—by the public as much as the talent they want to attract. Young people, fully versed in the dangers of climate change and cognizant of the moral responsibility businesses have in combating it, increasingly make decisions about where they work with these matters in mind. Ultimately, all of this affects companies’ bottom line. When given a choice, almost everyone will work for an organization that shows consideration for its employees and the environment.

The Role of Green Building Certifications

The importance of the above issues has resulted in greater demand for standardization in the construction industry. It’s not enough that organizations simply say their building is green; they need to provide independent evidence for it. Increasingly, these standards take the form of a green building certification. Just as we expect certain standards to be met in the banking industry or the production of our food, building certifications guarantee a certain quality and consistency. 

Two of the most well-known green building certifications are LEED and WELL. These certification systems attempt to objectively assess a building’s performance in terms of health/wellness and sustainability. Buildings that meet certain standards (according to LEED or WELL) are then awarded a certificate for doing so. Such independence offers assurances to all stakeholders.

Different Types of Building Certification

As mentioned above, the LEED and WELL certifications are the two major green building certifications in the industry today. While both certifications are broadly concerned with sustainability and improving the lives of people who live and work in buildings, there are some important differences that need to be pointed out. Let’s look at them in closer detail.

LEED Certification

LEED is the most popular green building certification system in the world. As the name suggests—Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design—the LEED rating system is concerned primarily with the environmental impact of a building. 

There are four different levels of LEED certification: Certified, Silver, Gold, and Platinum. To earn Platinum—the highest level—a project needs to have world-leading performance when it comes to areas such as its carbon footprint, energy efficiency, water and waste management, sustainability of materials used during construction, and the quality of its indoor environment. However, earning a LEED certification is not the end of the story. Any project that earns a LEED certificate can expect to save money through increased efficiency and lower energy costs, contribute to the fight against climate change, and create a healthier environment for the people who live and work there. Moving forward, green building certifications like LEED will play a vital role in organizations meeting their Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) commitments. 

WELL Certification

Unlike LEED, which focuses on the environment more generally, WELL certification concerns itself with how buildings affect the health and wellness of the people living, working, and occupying them. The WELL certification system is managed by an organization named the International WELL Building Institute (IWBI), whose declared mission is to improve the built environment in which people live and work. 

In administering its certificates, WELL approaches the concept of human well-being in an evidence-based way. For a project to earn WELL certification it must meet rigorous requirements in seven major categories: air, water, nourishment, light, fitness, comfort, and mind. Of course, these categories cover a vast range of possibilities, but in practice it means a project that prioritizes areas such as air filtration, water quality, levels of light appropriate to the situation, cleanliness, and otherwise making sure that the people inside the building experience an objectively assessed level of comfort. It should go without saying that people are an organization’s greatest resource. That being the case, WELL ensures that such organizations can attract, retain, and protect that resource.

How CBRE Can Help With LEED and WELL Certifications

CBRE can help you take your first steps towards a more sustainable future. Our Energy & Sustainability Services team of experts is on hand to guide you through the process of creating healthier workplaces and more environmentally friendly buildings. For more information on how to achieve LEED and WELL certification, please contact CBRE.