by Brianna Crandall — September 2, 2020 — The International WELL Building Institute (IWBI) announced in recent weeks the launch of the WELL Health-Safety Rating for Facility Operations and Management for all building and facility types, an evidence-based, third-party verified rating focusing on operational policies, maintenance protocols and design strategies to address operating in a COVID-19 environment following the coronavirus-related shutdowns.
The WELL Health-Safety Rating was one of the earliest outcomes of IWBI’s Task Force on COVID-19, a group of nearly 600 public health experts, virologists, government officials, academics, business leaders, architects, designers, building scientists and real estate professionals that was established in late March to help guide IWBI’s response to the pandemic.
The WELL Health-Safety Rating provides a centralized source and governing body to validate efforts made by owners and operators. It leverages insights drawn from the IWBI Task Force on COVID-19 in addition to guidance on the spread of COVID-19 and other respiratory infections developed by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the World Health Organization (WHO), the US Department of Health and Human Services pursuant to the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA), the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and leading academic and research institutions, as well as core principles already established by IWBI’s WELL Building Standard.
Participation in the program requires submission of policies, protocols and strategies for third-party document review and annual verification.
Rick Fedrizzi, chairman and CEO of IWBI, explained:
The WELL Health-Safety Rating is a sign of confidence that measures have been enacted to help support the health and safety of people entering spaces of all kinds, and that those measures have been mapped to scientific evidence and verified through a third-party review process. By drawing on the proven strategies in WELL, we’re working from the best science available and that’s more important than it’s ever been.
The WELL Health-Safety Rating accepts registrations from all types of buildings and facility typologies, including offices, restaurants, hotels, retail establishments, manufacturing plants, warehouses, sports stadiums, arenas, theaters and other entertainment venues, schools, multifamily housing, and many others.
Current WELL-registered projects and WELL Portfolio participants can earn the WELL Health-Safety Rating as part of their already established certification efforts.
Rachel Gutter, president of IWBI, remarked:
Our buildings and the people who tend them are our first line of defense for keeping us safe and healthy, and the current pandemic has confirmed that health is a material economic consideration of the first order. These two simple truths stand at the nexus of our work to date and will, along with the hard evidence that is mounting, inform all our decisions about the critical need for better buildings, more vibrant communities and stronger organizations going forward.
The WELL Health-Safety Rating is the first of many anticipated outcomes informed by the work of the IWBI COVID-19 Task Force that will be introduced in the coming months. Members of the Task Force include 17th Surgeon General of the United States Dr. Richard Carmona, former Robert Wood Johnson Foundation President and CEO Dr. Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, UCLA’s Dr. Jonathan Fielding, Harvard School of Public Health’s Joseph Allen, and environmental scientist Allen Hershkowitz Ph.D., among others.
According to task force member Dr. Richard Carmona, 17th surgeon general of the United States:
The Task Force has received overwhelming support and input from all over the world. People are learning that buildings themselves can be powerful vehicles for protecting and improving public health. All of us individually have a responsibility to the collective whole to use every tool, including our buildings and our sense of community, to keep ourselves and those we care about safe.
Another member, Despina Katsikakis, head of Occupier Business Performance at Cushman Wakefield, pointed out:
The impacts of the virus have been many, but not the least is the anxiety of uncertainty about where people feel safe. Achieving this new WELL Health-Safety Rating is a great way to increase confidence that evidence-based steps to do the right thing have been taken to keep health front and center as the economy reopens.
IWBI noted significant early adoption for the rating since enrollment opened, including real estate companies JLL and RMZ Corp; furniture manufacturers Herman Miller, Kimball and Teknion; and such iconic buildings as the Empire State Building, Yankee Stadium and Taipei 101. (For more FM-specific information on Teknion’s product offerings, see the company’s FMLink page.)
Gutter noted that upon achieving the designation, IWBI will issue the project a WELL Health-Safety Rating seal. For more information and to register interest in the WELL Health-Safety Rating for Facility Operations and Management, visit the IWBI website.
IWBI also released interim Strategies from the WELL Building Standard to Support in the Fight Against COVID-19, another key outcome of the Task Force. Grounded in the foundation of WELL, these evidence-based strategies provide an actionable framework for organizations and communities as they advance a safer and healthier future.
IWBI is expanding these strategies into Guidelines for Preparedness and Prevention, Resilience and Recovery in relation to COVID-19 and other respiratory infections. The Guidelines will provide insight into how the current strategies have evolved, as well as indicate areas where further work is required.
Commitment by US mayors
IWBI also announced in June that in a “sweeping show of support for public health and well-being,” mayors from around the country approved a healthy buildings resolution to better position buildings in the fight against COVID-19, underscoring the leading role buildings and their indoor spaces play in charting a path to healthier and more equitable communities.
The United States Conference of Mayors (USCM), which represents mayors in over 1,400 cities, passed the resolution encouraging communities around the country to take action by advancing integrated solutions, such as the WELL Building Standard and the WELL Health-Safety Rating, to support a healthier and more equitable recovery.
Since its inception, the International WELL Building Institute (IWBI) has been driving forward the convergence of building science and health science. Registrations under the WELL Building Standard, the standard for healthy real estate, have surpassed 550 million square feet across 62 countries. The WELL Building movement has been further amplified by over 11,000 WELL Accredited Professionals (APs) and registrants across the globe.