What is the WELL Building Standard?

And why does it matter?

As a sustainable interior design studio, we understand how important it is for the buildings we use to protect and nurture us. The WELL Building Standard – also known as the WELL certification – was introduced to make sure buildings serve as healthy environments for us to live, work, and socialise in. But what exactly is the WELL Building Standard? Our latest blog explores what it is, who needs it, why it matters and how you can achieve it. ‍
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What is the WELL Building Standard?

The WELL Building Standard is an international system that measures, monitors and certifies a series of features to promote occupant wellbeing. It investigates seven key concepts: air, water, nourishment, light, fitness, comfort, and mind.  

Created by the International WELL Building Institute, the standard is currently recognised in 98 countries globally and can apply to new and existing buildings.

It’s predominantly used to assess workplaces and commercial buildings, but it can also be applied to residential developments and educational establishments.

Why was the WELL Standard introduced?

The health risks of sedentary lifestyles are well documented. Bad backs and hunched postures, physical inactivity and even Sick Building Syndrome can all add up to us feeling emotionally and physically unwell. Clearly, the buildings where we spend our time have a significant impact on our health and wellbeing.

Studies have revealed we spend around 90% of our time indoors, adding up to a staggering 53 years, with only a decade of our lives spent outside.

The WELL Standard was created in 2014 to put our health at the forefront of design, taking a scientific approach to creating spaces that make us feel, sleep, and perform better.  

How do I know if a building is WELL Certified?

Buildings that have passed the WELL Building Standard will have the WELL Health-Safety seal displayed prominently.

Is the WELL Building Standard compulsory?

Right now, obtaining the WELL Building Standard is non-compulsory.

What are the benefits of the WELL Building Standard?

Securing WELL Certified status for your building can unlock a host of benefits for building owners and develops alike, including:

·      Attract top talent and tenants

·      Improve productivity

·      Maximise performance

·      Reduce sick days

·      Boost retention

·      Increase employee happiness and engagement

·      Establish yourself as a progressive, human-centric organisation

·      Achieve a competitive advantage

·      Lower employee turnover

·      Save money on bills

In fact, businesses spend 92% of their outgoings on employees. So, when you factor this into the equation, WELL Certification feels like a no-brainer for organisations looking to enhance employee wellbeing and reduce costs in the process.

Why does WELL Certification matter?

Over the past decade, we’ve seen a culture shift in attitudes towards health and fitness. The “wellness” trend sparked a multi-million-pound industry with a vested interest in creating new ways for us to prioritise our physical and mental health.

Naturally, our surroundings have a major impact on how we feel and have the potential to improve our wellness.

Therefore, securing the WELL Building Standard for your workplace, residential development or business premises enables you to demonstrate your commitment to putting people first, and creating spaces that have a positive impact on those who frequent them.

How is the WELL Building Standard assessed?

WELL considers more than 100 building features to determine the effect a space will have on its users. These features are either performance-based or descriptive, with preconditions necessary for the basic accreditation and optimisations to achieve higher levels of certification.

All of the features fall under one of the seven concept categories: air, water, nourishment, light, fitness, comfort and mind.


Air features aim to improve air quality, removing contaminants and promoting purer air.


In examining a building’s water credentials, assessors look at water quality and accessibility, including filtration and treatment systems.


For nourishment, assessors are looking for the promotion of healthy habits in terms of food choices, knowledge, and behaviour.


In terms of light, WELL seeks to complement our bodies’ natural circadian rhythm through windows and internal lighting systems and controls. With the right type and levels of lighting, the aim is to boost mood, performance, and energy.


Fitness looks at how our buildings promote physical activity and inspire users to incorporate exercise into their day.


Comfort features assess how we can design our spaces for maximum comfort and productivity. This takes into account sound, temperature and more.


The mind concept of the WELL Building Standard focuses on how interior design and technology within a building can promote good mental health for its users.

How is the WELL framework different to LEED and BREEAM?

While the WELL process has things in common with LEED and BREEAM, in the way aspects of a building are monitored and assessed, there are key differences.

In a nutshell, LEED and BREEAM focus on environmental sustainability, whereas WELL takes a more holistic and people-led approach to achieving social sustainability, health and wellness.

You can apply for a combination of LEED and WELL or BREEAM and WELL, but there is some overlap and contradiction between the three systems (as the BSRIA points out in its white paper, ‘BREEAM, LEED or WELL”, there are conflicting messages around ventilation, depending on whether you prioritise energy usage or health).

Plus, securing BREEAM can be a prerequisite for some planning applications.

Generally, it’s best to look into each accreditation system to decide which best aligns with your requirements, ambitions and project specifics, to determine the right path for your development.

How to design WELL-friendly buildings

The easiest way to achieve WELL Certified status is by implementing thoughtful, socially sustainable design practices.

Whether you’re planning a new workplace or commercial development or looking to redesign an existing space, aiming to achieve the WELL Building Standard is a fantastic way to demonstrate your commitment to wellbeing.

With a natural focus on sensory-driven, sustainable design, we gravitate towards design choices that create the optimal environment for health and happiness. The Jolie Studio design ethos aligns with the fundamental principles of the WELL framework, and we regularly work with clients to advise on and contribute to plans to achieve WELL Certification, as well as other leading building accreditation frameworks.

If you’re keen to explore this for your workplace or commercial building project, we’d love to get involved to help you accomplish your goals and see a tangible impact on the success of your project. Speak to the Jolie Studio team by calling 0161 553 0366 or emailing

written by
Franky Rousell

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