New Trend in Architecture: Wellness Design

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Purpose:  To teach architects, designers, and developers about the WELL Building Standard.


  • What are the trends for corporate wellness?
  • What standards need to be met to be a WELL Building?
  • What buildings are currently WELL certified?

The corporate wellness market is growing rapidly.  It is projected that by 2024, $2.8 million a year will be spent on corporate fitness, just one segment of corporate wellness!  With this trend, a new building certification has emerged - WELL Building.

According to Ian Spula of Architect Magazine, "Popular movements like active design and above-code certifications such as Fitwel and the WELL Building Standard are making a loud splash."


What is a WELL Building Standard?

A WELL building takes a holistic view of the occupants in buildings.  Design, operations, and behaviors can improve the well-being of the people inside the building.  WELL certification attempts to improve the overall wellness of occupants by looking at air, water, nourishment, light, fitness, comfort, and mind - the seven features of a WELL building.

workplace wellness


Let's dive deeper into the seven elements of a WELL building.

Air:  Air pollution is the number one environmental cause of premature death.  Each year, approximately 50,000 people die in the United States from an air pollution-related illness.

To have a WELL certified building, the air needs to meet 29 different factors.

  • Pesticide management
  • Fundamental material safety
  • Moisture management
  • Air flush
  • Air infiltration management
  • Increased ventilation
  • Humidity control
  • Direct source ventilation
  • Air quality monitoring and feedback
  • Operable windows
  • Enhanced material safety
  • Antimicrobial activity for surfaces
  • Cleanable environment
  • Cleaning equipment
  • Air quality standard
  • Smoking ban
  • Ventilation effectiveness
  • VOC reduction
  • Air filtration
  • Microbe and mold control
  • Construction pollution management
  • Healthy entrance
  • Cleaning protocol
  • Outdoor air systems
  • Displacement ventilation 
  • Pest control
  • Advanced air purification
  • Combustion minimization
  • Toxic material reduction
  • Advanced cleaning









Water:  The WELL Building Standard is meant to preserve water and enhance the quality of drinking water.  WELL assesses the building's water source, ensures a proper filtration system, and suggests continued water testing.

The water features that need to be met for WELL certification are

  • Fundamental water quality
  • Inorganic contaminants
  • Organic contaminants
  • Agricultural contaminants
  • Public water additives
  • Periodic quality testing
  • Water treatment
  • Drinking water promotion 

Nourishment:  The way we eat affects our whole lives from our mood to our fitness ability. The WELL certification looks at 17 factors of nourishment before granting the certification.

  • Safe food preparation materials
  • Serving size
  • Special diets
  • responsible food production
  • Food storage
  • Food production
  • Mindful eating
  • Food environment
  • Strategic dining design
  • Fruits and vegetables
  • Hand washing
  • Nutritional information
  • Processed food
  • Food contamination
  • Food advertising
  • Food allergies
  • Artificial ingredients


Light: Light affects the circadian rhythm.  When we spend too much time indoors without proper lighting. People need periods of time with brightness and darkness to synchronize the circadian rhythms accurately.

The WELL certification looks at 13 lighting features.

  • Automated shading and dimming controls
  • Right to light
  • Daylight modeling
  • Daylighting fenestration
  • Light at night
  • Circadian emulation
  • Visual lighting design
  • Circadian lighting design
  • Electric light glare control
  • Solar glare control
  • Low-glare workstation design
  • Color quality
  • Surface design

Fitness: This certification promotes integrating physical activity into everyday life.  WELL looks at nine factors to determine if it meets their certification guidelines.

  • Physical activity spaces
  • Active transportation support
  • Fitness equipment
  • Active furnishings
  • Injury prevention
  • Interior fitness circulation
  • Activity incentive programs
  • Structured fitness opportunities
  • Exterior active design

Comfort: The comfort element of WELL certification is there to keep occupants distraction-free, productive, and comfortable in an indoor environment.  It has 13 elements that make up the comfort section of the WELL-certification.

  • Reverberation time
  • Sound masking
  • Sound reducing surfaces
  • Sound barriers
  • Individual thermal control
  • Radiant thermal comfort
  • Impact reducing flooring
  • Accessible design
  • Ergonomics: visual and physical
  • Exterior noise intrusion
  • Internally generated noise
  • Thermal comfort
  • Olfactory comfort


Mind: The final WELL building standard is mind.  It optimizes cognitive and emotional health by using design, technology, and treatment strategies

  • Business travel
  • Building healthy policy
  • Workplace family support
  • Self-monitoring
  • Stress and addiction treatment
  • Altruism
  • Material transparency
  • Beauty and design
  • Biophilia quantitative
  • Health through housing equity
  • Health and wellness awareness
  • Integrative design
  • Post-occupancy surveys
  • Beauty and design
  • Biophilia qualitative
  • Adaptable spaces
  • Healthy sleep policy
  • Organizational transparency
  • Education space provisions


In Illinois, there are sixteen WELL certified projects so far.  In the U.S., there are currently 327 WELL certified projects.

When workers spend 40+ hours a week in the office, spending that time in a healthy environment is important.  We take work home with us, and we take the environment we have been in all day home with us.  That is why working in a healthy space is of the utmost importance.


1.  Do you work in a WELL building?  If so, what is it like?

2.  What environmental health issues have you come across in buildings?

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