Is “Wellness” the New LEED?

By many measures, LEED certification has been a success. There are over 13.8 billion square feet of certified real estate, with 1.85 million square feet added, every day. In many locales, federal, state and local codes have even made it mandatory. With the creation and proliferation of LEED, the US Green Building Council (USGBC), and the Green Building Certification Incorporation (GBCI) have successfully raised the baseline of building standards. However, general interest appears to be fading. According to Google Trends, which measures a term’s popularity relative to the total number of Google searches over time, searches for the term “LEED” peaked in 2009.


LEED has ushered an era of buildings with optimized energy efficiency, better supply chains and other sustainable features that may reduce (or add) cost, but experienced building professionals can attain the benefits of LEED without certification and its associated costs. These best practices in sustainable design are becoming ubiquitous – an expected standard, rather than a sign of elitism.

In a next step to sustainable design, new standards and organizations have been introduced – WELL, SITES and PEER, among others. Many businesses and building owners are interested in improving occupant productivity, health, satisfaction, and comfort as a way to avoid poor productivity, absenteeism, and turnover. Why else would market-leading American companies provide employees with nap rooms, free healthy (and sometimes expensive) food, and bicycles for getting around campuses?

Source: Joseph J. Romm, Lean and Clean Management (Kodansha International, 1994)
By improving the operations, design, and features of a building, it is possible to reduce the biggest slice of the 30 year cost of a building in the above pie chart. This can be done with a range of measures: improving the quality of light, water, and food; utilizing designs that encourage active space; designing work spaces that engage the user; and so forth. Wellness is important to the real estate industry because it is hugely important to people. People work more productively when they are happy – are happier when healthier – and healthier when they have good light, air, water, food, exercise, and engagement.

When the terms “wellness,” “LEED,” and “sustainability” are all added to a Google Trend graph, “wellness” is googled far more often than both “LEED” and “sustainability”. Inherently, human wellness impacts people more directly.

The USGBC, GBCI, and many other organizations and individuals are aware of all this. In 2014, an established GBCI, which administers the LEED certification program, partnered with The International WELL Building Institute to certify buildings to a new standard.
Published in 2015, The WELL Building Standard serves as a basis for certification of new buildings to Silver, Gold, and Platinum levels of wellness. To get certification, a third party assessor must check that a number of measurable preconditions and optimizations are met (e.g. water and air quality minimums). For a higher level of certification, building operators may also implement professional suggestions for improvement.
The WELL standard certification program and associated buzz are just two of the puzzle pieces for a proliferation of wellness within the real estate industry that would be similar to what happened with LEED. Another puzzle piece is professional engineers and architects who can design, build, and renovate buildings for improved wellness.
Baumann Consulting, Above Green, and Davis Buckley Architects and Planners have partnered for just that reason. After integrating our expertise and brainstorming ways to improve our clients and their employees’ personal health and bottom lines, we now look forward to launching a new venture in late 2015. In the meantime, we encourage everyone to become more cognizant of the spaces you live, work, eat, play and interact. What improvements could be made to your work area – more natural light, better accessibility, reduction in noise levels, etc? What amenities would optimize your daily life – gym accessibility, public transportation, more kitchen space, etc? These are all basic questions that can be analyzed and transcribed into tangible data, which can be used to impact the way we build and promote more healthy living.



About the Authors:

Jonathan Lemmond, Senior Consultant, Baumann Consulting


Jon, in 2004, worked as a mechanical engineer and project manager for the Naval Facilities Engineering Command of the United States Navy.  During his 3+ years with the Navy, he worked as a mechanical designer, fire protection engineer, and construction manager. Jon left the Navy to attend the University of California, Berkeley where he earned Master of Science and Master of Engineering degrees from the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering. His graduate research focused on the life cycle environmental impacts of structural steel and he was a visiting scholar to Beijing’s Tsinghua University to collaborate with researchers focusing on life-cycle assessment and indoor air pollution.  In 2010, Jon took a job at the Air Conditioning, Heating, and Refrigeration Institute (AHRI). At AHRI, he managed standard writing teams and published updates to AHRI standards, reviewed and provided stakeholder comments to U.S. Department of Energy proposed efficiency standards and rules, and administered AHRI certification programs for various products.  Jon joined Baumann Consulting in 2013 as a senior engineer where he is part of the commissioning team.  At Baumann Consulting, his work focuses on measurement and verification, energy benchmarking, energy audits, and operation diagnostics.
Thomas J. Striegel, Vice President, Davis Buckley Architects and PlannersThomas_StriegelTom is the Vice President of
Davis Buckley Architects and Planners
, and has been working with the firm since he was a graduate student at the Catholic University of America. Tom serves as the firm’s lead project manager and principal-in-charge of projects. His experience includes commercial, residential, institutional, education, health care, museum, historic preservation, national memorial and master planning projects. Tom is experienced in gaining design and technical approvals in the District of Columbia, Maryland and Virginia. He earned his B.S. in Architecture and Bachelor of Architecture degrees from CUA, where he is a member of the Board of Governors and a visiting lecturer. He is a LEED Accredited Professional (AP) and is a member of the AIA/DC’s Design + Wellbeing Committee. Tom is also a member of the George Washington Chapter of Lambda Alpha International (LAI), an honorary, non-political professional society devoted to the advancement of land economics.Vincent Bataoel, Cofounder, Above Green 

Vincent is co-founder of Above Green, which earns LEED Certification for commercial buildings on behalf of building owners, architects, general contractors. Above Green has completed work for end-use clients including Bank of America, Hilton Hotels, and every branch of the U.S. military. Previously, he was a Visiting Scholar at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, Potomac Institute for Neurotechnology Studies, and National Defense University Center for Technology and National Security Policy. Prior to Above Green and the White House, Vincent worked in Federal business development at Brainwave Fingerprinting Laboratories and worked as a research assistant in the Center for Brain, Consciousness, and Cognition at Maharishi University of Management. He is one of 100 WELL Accredited Professionals in the United States, and is also a LEED Accredited Professional, and Certified Building Commissioning Agent. He has a MS in Defense and Strategic Studies, and BS in Environmental Science. He currently serves as Chairman of the Economic Development Advisory Committee in Middleburg, VA.

Aquicore now features a weekly guest blogger to expand our discussion on the commercial real estate and technology industries. Want to add to the conversation? Pitch us at marketing@aquicore.com.

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