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Two Certifications for Better Buildings

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Written by: Alexa Stone

While Chief Executive Officer of Xerox, Anne M. Mulcahy wrote, “Employees are a company’s greatest asset – they’re your competitive advantage.” From the perspective of that CEO and others in business, employees are the most valuable asset within any built environment.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that Americans average 7.9 hours per day at their workplaces. For that reason, the building they work in is no less important. An environment for so many people for so many hours must support human health! WELL certification was created in 2013 to support workplace wellness. The certification brings optimal working conditions that protect the environment and human health.

Fifteen years earlier, the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) initiated Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification. It also offered workplace benefits. Here is how the two certifications compare.

WELL certification

A science-based standard, WELL requires third-party verification. It addresses workplace sustainability from several perspectives, all focused on the employee.

  • Air quality
  • Water quality
  • Nourishment
  • Fitness
  • Light
  • Comfort
  • Mind

As of 2016, the worldwide total of WELL projects was 298. U.S. had 126, or 42% of the total. China had 50 projects, another 17%.

Once the building is completed and occupied, an assessor evaluates it. Registrants have up to 5 years to complete the certification. To maintain the certification, WELL must be recertified every 3 years.

LEED certification


Today, LEED is globally-recognized as a symbol of achievement in sustainability. Over 14,000 projects worldwide have earned LEED certification. Buildings earning Bronze, Silver, Gold, or Platinum certification have been proven to conserve energy while promoting workplace health.

Air and water quality are certified in both WELL and LEED. However, LEED focuses far more on building efficiency than workplace wellness. Certification requirements for the two will vary.

With LEED BD+C, a new building need not be recertified. Existing buildings must be recertified every 5 years.

The WELL certification brings greatest measurable benefit to the workers and customers in it. LEED focuses on the building itself. Because of significant overlap, efficiencies can be claimed when a single project undertakes both certifications. Together, they aim for an energy-efficient and comfortable building where occupants can feel productive.