Healthy Buildings

Green building & healthy building certifications: all you need to know

Let's break down the steps, scorecards, and pricing of WELL, Fitwel, LEED, and BREEAM.


There are a variety of reasons why businesses decide to certify their buildings. Whether it is to offer a healthier space to its occupants, increase the value of the building or meet government regulations, certifications are gaining more and more importance in the real estate market.  

However, how do you know which certification is the best for each building? Or what are the differences between the various building certifications?

In this article, we seek to discuss the four most popular certifications around the world: WELL, FITWEL, LEED, and BREEAM. We'll highlight their most important characteristics and differences, and help you choose the most effective one for your business. 

Let's jump straight into it!

 

                                  WELL                             


The WELL Building Standard is one of the most popular certifications and can be used in a variety of settings: whole building, partial building, or leased spaces. It was created back in 2004 by the International WELL Building Insitute, and is now present in over 36.000 locations, around 120 countries, and covering over 4 billion square feet.

The core concepts

With human health and well-being as the main focus, the WELL certification aims to improve how people work, live, and operate inside buildings. This is done by following a scoring system based on several preconditions and the following 10 core concepts as a holistic baseline:

WELL core concept categories

The scoring system

Buildings and projects need to fulfill the set preconditions for each concept and meet a certain number of points across all 10 core concepts. The total score across all concepts will determine which level of the WELL certification the project gets: Bronze, Silver, Gold, or Platinum. This requires strategic planning of building requirements and implementation of the right equipment.

Here, you can find the different levels available and the required scores for each level:  

Total points achieved 

WELL Certification 

Minimum points per concept 

Level of certification

40 pts 

0 

WELL Bronze 

50 pts 

1 

WELL Silver 

60 pts 

2 

WELL Gold 

80 pts 

3 

WELL Platinum 

Projects are only allowed to aim for a maximum of 12 points per concept and a total of 100 points across all 10 concepts. However, some concepts have 20+ points available, so you need to be careful about deciding which concepts and optimizations best support your project’s goal.

If you’re wondering how these points are calculated, this is done by on-site testing of the building's performance. For this, an authorized WELL Performance Testing Agent spends between one and three days at the building, measuring various air and water quality parameters, as well as sound and light levels.  

Pricing and frequency

All in all, the costs for WELL can very much vary depending on the size of the project, ranging from $15.500 up to $107.000. The recertification of the building needs to be conducted every three years, in order to ensure that buildings keep operating in line with WELL's standards.  

For whom is the WELL certificate the best option? 

WELL offers the most rigorous evaluation of all individual spaces, assuring that the building offers the healthiest possible level for its occupants. Therefore, it is a great option for businesses that are looking to have a deeper assessment and reconstruction of the building.   

Additionally, businesses benefit the most from WELL when including it in the design or re-design process of the buildings. 

WELL and Indoor Air Quality

In order to be certified under the WELL Building Standard, a building must meet certain indoor air quality requirements and ensure that the air quality is safe and healthy for the building's occupants. 

Additionally, WELL gives special importance to the well-being and comfort of the building occupants, which means that the indoor air should, of course, be free of contaminants that can harm human health, but it should also offer a high degree of thermal comfort in order to meet WELL's requirements and pre-conditions.

However, this is extremely difficult to achieve, as it requires highly human-focused indoor air measurements on top of the standard parameters of CO2, particulate matter (PM), temperature, and VOCs.

Lucky for you, extremely difficult does not mean impossible. Our Clairify sensors measure not only the standard air quality core concepts, but also the additional prescribed parameters, such as aerosols, radiant temperature, and thermal comfort, allowing us to "perceive" the indoor air the same way a human being would. 

With this in mind, we can help you obtain up to 22%* of the required points for reaching a WELL certification for your building. Is your building already WELL Silver certified? In that case, we can help you achieve the additional required points to reach the next level: WELL Gold certification.

Are you curious how?

FIND OUT HOW WE CAN HELP YOU

 

 

                              Fitwel                             

Fitwel was created back in 2017 by the Center for Disease Control, the U.S. General Service Administration, and the Center for Active Design. Similarly to WELL, Fitwel can be applied to different building settings, regardless of if it is a whole building or a partial building.  

The core concepts

With around 3.500 projects registered in over 50 countries, Fitwel aims to strengthen the health and well-being of the communities both, inside and outside of the building. For this, Fitwel evaluates over 55 different design and operation strategies across these 7 health impact categories: 

Fitwel categories

The scoring system

In this case, there are no preconditions that need to be fulfilled and there are a maximum of 144 points to be reached as part of the evaluation. The different levels available are as follows:  

Total points achieved 

Fitwel Certification 

Level of certification 

90-104 pts 

Fitwel one star

105-124 pts 

Fitwel two starts ⭐⭐

125-144 pts 

Fitwel three starts ⭐⭐⭐

Contrary to WELL, Fitwel does not require an on-site assessment by an authorized agent, but rather consists of the project owner assessing how the project measures up in each of the 7 health impact categories and what mix of categories best aligns with the building.

Pricing and frequency

The price for Fitwel certification varies depending on the size of the building, ranging from $5.500 for buildings up to 49.999 square feet to $11.000 for buildings up to 1.999.999 square feet. Similarly to WELL, Fitwel certification needs to be conducted every three years. 

For whom is the Fitwel certificate the best option? 

Fitwel offers a more flexible approach due to the mix of health categories, the assessment method, and the lack of preconditions. This makes it a better option for certifying existing buildings or building portfolios that would require scalable and replicable strategies.  

Additionally, the lower price makes it a more affordable and practical starting point for businesses looking to optimize and benchmark their spaces.   

Fitwel and Indoor Air Quality

Fitwel certification is a great way to ensure that your building is up to code for air quality. While there are no mandatory pre-conditions, there are certain indoor environment requirements that buildings need to fulfill, in order to be Fitwel certified.

The indoor environment category includes different points, from ensuring that the property is smoke and tobacco-free, to following a green purchasing policy for the cleaning products used in the building. However, one of the most present concepts within the indoor environment's category is air quality monitoring. 

As part of the requirements, Fitwel requires that the buildings undergoing certification ensure the following:

  • The building should have an indoor air quality policy in place, 
  • The indoor air quality should be regularly monitored in all occupied spaces of the building, 
  • It should be possible to share and communicate the indoor air quality levels with the building occupants.
With Clairify, we can help you address all three points mentioned as part of the indoor air quality concept. This means that we can help you reach up to 35%* of the points required for the full indoor environment category.

Are you curious how?

FIND OUT HOW WE CAN HELP YOU

 

 

                              LEED                             

LEED centers primarily around building infrastructure and was developed by the U.S. Green Building Council. This certification focuses more on the “green” side of the building, taking a holistic approach to evaluate criteria like energy savings, water efficiency, indoor environment quality, and CO2 emissions reduction.   

LEED is applicable to all building types at all building stages and offers a number of tools on its website to understand the evaluated criteria and the scorecard calculations. 

The scoring system

LEED does require buildings to fulfill a number of preconditions before starting the certification process. After that, the rest of the registration process occurs online.

During the certification process, buildings will be evaluated and scored across 9 different categories and will be able to reach a maximum of 100 points.  

LEED categories

Depending on the number of points scored, buildings will be accredited with one of the four certifications. These are achieved as follows:

Total points achieved 

LEED Certification 

Level of certification 

40-49 pts 

LEED Certified 

50-59 pts 

LEED Silver 

60-79 pts 

LEED Gold 

80+ pts 

LEED Platinum 

Similar to Fitwel, there are no on-site assessments from LEED’s side, but it is rather the project owner, who is in charge of measuring, analyzing, and reporting the required data for the certification. 

Pricing and Frequency

The LEED certification fees vary depending on the membership status of the business (LEED member or non-member). Additionally, the fees change based on the review and certification level that is being pursued. The fixed fees, namely registration, and building flat fee, add up to $6.000, while the variable rates per square foot start at $0.009 per square foot and raise up to $0.068 per square foot.  

Contrary to WELL and Fitwel, the LEED certification needs to be renewed every year. 

For whom is the LEED certificate the best option? 

LEED is a great option for businesses focusing on the physical building and its infrastructure and aiming to meet environmentally responsible construction practices.

LEED and indoor air quality

Although LEED is primarily a certificate focused on the infrastructure of the building, it also highly prioritizes indoor air quality and human well-being. It is for this reason that 22% of the obtainable points in LEED come from the category indoor environmental quality.

LEED has a very unique way of measuring this category since it uses two different dimensions to calculate the indoor environmental quality score: air quality monitoring and feedback from the building's occupants, also called the human experience score. 

While the air quality monitoring dimension requires regular monitoring of the standard air quality parameters, such as CO2, particulate matter, and TVOCs, the human experience score takes into account the occupant's comfort. The latter is calculated by means of surveys and feedback from the occupants; the higher the registered comfort score (human experience score), the higher the building's LEED points. 

The best way to ensure the occupant's comfort is by measuring the air quality in the same way they're perceiving it. Our Clairify sensor takes a human-focused approach, measuring parameters like aerosols, perceived temperature, and relative humidity to simulate the real human experience. Additionally, the Clairify dashboard allows you to collect surveys and feedback from the building's occupants to better calculate the level of comfort. 

This way, we help you fulfill LEED's indoor environmental quality category and achieve up to 20* points, or in other words, achieve 50%* of the required points to obtain the first level of LEED certification.  

 Are you curious how?

FIND OUT HOW WE CAN HELP YOU

 

 

                              BREEAM                             

BREEAM was published in 1990 by the Building Research Establishment, making it the longest-established process to measure, rate, and certify the sustainability of buildings. As of now, over 500.000 buildings have been certified by BREEAM, and over 2 million are registered for certification.  

BREEAM is one of the most popular in the real estate industry and has been used in over 50 different countries to create more environmentally friendly and socially responsible buildings. 

This certificate is applicable to a variety of buildings and building stages, from new constructions and refurbishments to in-use buildings and communities. 

Scoring system

The BREEAM scoring system works slightly different than the previously mentioned certifications, since BREEAM uses a method based on percentages and weighted scores. 

To calculate the score, it is required to divide the number credits achieved in a certain category by the total number of achievable credits in that same category. Afterwards, this first percentage result needs to be multiplied by the weighted score.

For example, the category Water has a total of 38 achievable credits and a weighted score of 0.11. If a project achieves 29 credits in this category the calculation would be as follows: (29/38) * 0.11 = 0.0839. This translates to a 8.39% category score for Water.

This calculation is repeated across all the following 10 categories and then added up to get the total score achieved.

BREEAM categories

Like all previously mentioned certifications, there are different levels that can be reached depending on the number of points collected. However, as mentioned before, in the case of BREEAM this is defined in percentages, namely: 

Total % score achieved 

BREEAM Certification 

Level of certification 

 ≥ 30% 

BREEAM Pass 

 ≥ 45% 

BREEAM Good 

 ≥ 55%  

BREEAM Very good 

 ≥ 70% 

BREEAM Excellent 

 ≥ 85% 

BREEAM Outstanding 

In order to reach a BREEAM certification, a licensed BREEAM assessor must conduct both, the pre-assessment of the building and the assessment of the building when starting the certification process.   

Pricing and Frequency

The pricing for BREEAM ranges between $810 to $4.160 depending on the complexity of the process. However, the price for the consultancy fee to the licensed assessor is not included in this calculation.  

Contrarily to LEED, this specific certification needs to be renewed only every three years.  

For whom is BREEAM the best option?

Similar to LEED, BREEAM is a great option for projects looking to reach green standards for the infrastructure of the building. This certificate is particularly interesting for projects based in the UK, since it is better adapted to the UK's regulations and legislation. 

BREEAM and indoor air quality

It is known that poor indoor air quality is connected to a range of problems, including health issues, building deterioration, and poor occupant performance. Because of this, BREEAM rewards projects that aim to reduce pollution sources and improve indoor air quality by means of an Indoor Air Quality Plan (IAQP). 

Both BREEAM In-Use and BREEAM for New Constructions consider air quality and thermal comfort required building blocks to achieve the BREEAM certification. In fact, these two categories belong to the category Health & Wellness, which has one of the highest weight scores, namely 0.20 (20%) for BREEAM In-Use and 0.14 (14%) for BREEAM for New Constructions. 

The high degree of thermal comfort insights and indoor air quality management provided by the Clairify sensors and dashboard help you fulfill around 28% of the credits of the Health & Wellness category for the BREEAM In-Use and around 38% for the BREEAM for New Constructions certification.

Are you curious how?

FIND OUT HOW WE CAN HELP YOU

 

*Numbers are merely indications and no claim can be made directly on them. They depend on a case-by-case basis.

 

 

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