Does your workplace or building ever make you feel sick? If so, you’re not alone. The structures in which we work and live can have a great effect on our health. Through a fresh approach, the International WELL Building Institute (IWBI) is tackling this issue with the world’s first building certification dedicated to people’s well-being.

Launched in 2013, the IWBI believes “that buildings should be developed with people’s health and wellness at the center of design.” For much of the world’s industrial history, infrastructure has been built with little or no regard for how materials, construction practices and implementation affect the overall health of a building’s occupants.

Formed as a public benefit corporation following a Clinton Global Initiative, the IWBI strives to optimize buildings while introducing a new benchmark—one that places the focus on people, healthy living and sustainable work culture.

IWBI Approach

Did you know we spend upwards of 90% of our time indoors?

Consequently, the spaces we occupy have a huge effect on our well-being. The irony is that conventional building design rarely accommodates the wellness of humans, instead perpetuating anachronistic models that can be detrimental to our health.

The IWBI has recognized the resulting effects, including moodiness, lowered productivity and even sickness.

Through performance-based certification, the company improves myriad spaces around the globe with its one-of-a-kind, people-centric approach.

Recently unveiled, the IWBI’s new site promotes the WELL Building Standard, a tool which encompasses a set of holistic building standards.

“The way that buildings are designed, constructed and maintained impacts the way we sleep, what we eat, and how we feel. The WELL Building Standard™ uses innovative, research-backed strategies to advance health, happiness, mindfulness and productivity in our buildings and communities,” the IWBI site proclaims.

The WELL Standard

WELL tackles 7 concepts: air, water, nourishment, light, fitness, comfort and mind. These factors are optimized by over 100 specific features that enhance both psychological and physiological elements.

This includes the use of techniques such as circadian lighting design, color psychology and physical activity integration, shown to have positive effects on mood.

“It’s been the mission of the WELL Building movement and the IWBI to look to merge medical science with building science,” said IWBI Founder Paul Scialla.

Circular IWBI Illustration

WELL Building Standard Chart (IWBI)

The WELL Building Standard is comprised of three levels (Silver, Gold and Platinum) and can be utilized in a plethora of spaces while aligning with global rating systems such as Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED).

“WELL can be applied across many building types and sectors, from brand new restaurants to office building renovations,” the site states.

Along with the WELL Building Standard, the IWBI supports an ever-growing community through its WELL Accredited Professional credential (WELL AP™) and WELL education resources (both online and through global events).

The WELL AP credential not only offers participants the opportunity to hone their skills in health and wellness but also be part of a community of like-minded leaders in the pursuit of improving the world.

“Whether you’re an architect, designer, business leader or wellness advocate, getting involved with WELL community signals to employers, clients and your community that their health is your priority,” continues the site.

WELL in Action

Canada’s TD Bank is a prime example of WELL certification in action. Wanting to bolster its employees’ health, the bank selected IWBI to certify its Toronto headquarters. TD Bank has committed itself to environmental initiatives, and with over 4 million square feet of certified space (involving both LEED and IWBI), it understands implicitly the value of wellness.


TD23 is a full-floor, 25,000-square-foot renovation of TD corporate office space. (IWBI)

The TD Bank project also received the world’s first WELL Certification (v1).

As stated by Martha McInnis, Design Director at TD Bank Group, “The occupants of our building embrace the culture of health and wellness that WELL Certification has created. They are coming together to develop their own wellness activities and programs and banding together to participate in health fairs and host walk and talk meetings.”

Another example is the Shanghai showroom and office of Haworth Inc., which was the first project in Asia to receive WELL Certification.

In a study of an IWBI project, 92% of employees in an office building reported that the WELL Building Standard had an overall “positive effect on their health and well-being,” believed to yield pleasant work environments, elevated employee wellness and increased productivity.

Haworth WELL Building Standard

Haworth Shanghai Showroom and Office (Indesignlive)

The Future

The IWBI isn’t shy about its ambitions and posits wellness as “the next trillion-dollar industry.”

Focused on market growth and rapid scalability, the company has its eye on global markets with the intent of revolutionizing building optimization worldwide.

“I’m more convinced than ever before that the #WELLBuildingStandard is real estate’s next great opportunity to shape a better world,” says IWBI Chairman & CEO Rick Fedrizzi.

Growing in popularity, the concept of wellness-minded spaces is being embraced by more and more people, particularly millennials. Many in this age group work in environments geared towards the movement, and this may soon be adapted by residential designers as well.

To date, over 350 projects all over the globe have benefited from the IWBI’s WELL Building Standard, with more than 73 million square feet of space transformed into beneficial environments catering to its occupants’ health and wellness.

The future is here, and the International WELL Building Institute is ready to take our buildings well into the 21st century and beyond.