LEED v4 isn’t the only certification system I’m learning about at this year’s Greenbuild Conference and Expo. This morning, I met with Paul Scialla, a founder of Delos and the WELL Building Standard, a relatively new program that aims to address health and wellness in the built environment. (By the way, if you do want to dig into LEED v4, which officially launched today, go on and click here. And while you’re at it, get caught up on the growing range of green building rating systems here.)

With all the talk of materials and transparency at the conference so far, I was curious about this initiative. Not to mention that I was intrigued by its advisory board, which includes such names as Deepak Chopra and Jason McLennan as well as the medical director of the Mayo Clinic Center for Innovation and chief wellness officer at the Cleveland Clinic. President Bill Clinton championed the WELL Building Standard system, announcing it at the 2012 Clinton Global Initiative. And in building and launching the standard, which is in a pilot phase now, Delos has also formed alliances with green building entities such as the USGBC.

So, what’s it all about? And frankly, do we need yet another building standard?

Here’s the very basic scoop on the WELL Building Standard:  It’s designed to operate alongside green building rating systems such as LEED and looks at a space’s effect on human health. Its framework is based on seven categories—air, water, nourishment, light, fitness, comfort, and mind—which the standard dubs “concepts.” These concepts are then linked to 12 facets (or “domains,” as the standard calls them) of human health: cardiovascular, cosmetic, respiratory, emotional, metabolic, gastrointestinal, health literacy, longevity and aging, immune, sleep, musculoskeletal, and cognitive. Confused? Click here to access an interactive map explaining the seven concepts and their links to the 12 facets. The standard is run by Delos, but will eventually be housed in the International Well Building Institute, a for-profit corporation that will act as the standard’s governing body.


“Our intention was to push the sustainability notion in real estate beyond the environmental considerations and into human or biological considerations in the built environment, combining elements of health, well-being, and preventative medicine into architecture, design, and construction,” Scialla told me on Wednesday amid the hubbub of Greenbuild. Think light therapy via fixtures that are attuned to providing light that taps into circadian rhythms to give people more energy, purified air and water systems, aromatherapy, and hydrotherapy.  Some of the funkier elements that may come into play? Think posture-supportive flooring or shower water infused with vitamin C.

The point is to turn your indoor spaces into machines that passively work to improve your health 24/7. “When you think of a house that could effectively be a 24-hour car wash working on your  body just by living in it, it appeals to some consumers,” Scialla says. “We’re taking the largest asset class in the world, real estate, and we’re infusing it with the growing industry of health and wellness. People are spending money on preventative medicine and alternative healing. We felt that if we could properly codify a standard to work toward those intentions of infusing health and preventative medical practices into four walls and a roof, people will pay for it."

And it appears that some are: Among the first few project signed on to the standard so far:  A luxury residential building in New York City (why hello there, Leonardo DiCaprio); CBRE’s global headquarters in downtown Los Angeles; and the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, the last of which is reporting a 30 percent premium on “Stay Well” rooms that are built to the WELL standard and is planning an increase in the total number of those rooms, Scialla says.

As I wind down the latest full day of Greenbuild, I have to admit I’m wondering if there’s a treatment that could be integrated into my hotel room to help mend a voice that’s half-gone from talking all day. I’ll be mulling it over as I dig through more notes and sip on some hot tea. In the meantime, click here to learn more about the standard.

Editor's note: Ecobuildingpulse.com's parent company Hanley Wood recently entered into a strategic partnership with USGBC regarding the management of the Greenbuild International Conference and Expo.For more information on that relationship, click here.