WELL vs LEED: What are the Differences?
Collin Fowler is an architect with extensive experience in both commercial and residential builds. He is the lead Building Product Advisor researcher on the latest and most innovative building products on the market.
Sustainability is everywhere, thanks to our culture's major shift in eco-consciousness. Thanks to the rise, more sustainable building initiatives, including green building standards, have risen in popularity. If you or your organization is associated with sustainability, specifically sustainable architecture, you may have heard about WELL vs. LEED. These accredited certifications are used to validate organizations and their sustainability efforts during the construction process.
With rising standards, and the global focus on wellness, health, and sustainability, more companies are looking for the best accreditation possible for their project. While the LEED and WELL Building Standard® are similar enough, there are some key differences between the two. We’ll break down the differences for you here!
Founded by the United States Green Building Council in the 1990s, LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) is regarded as a green building rating certification within the construction industry. It’s used for measuring the impact a building has on the environment. Plus, this promotes market transformation and leads toward a more sustainable design in the developmental process of construction. Also, LEED is available for all types of buildings, which extends to the phases. LEED will accept a new project or even a residential building.
Created in 2014 by the International WELL Building of Institute (IWBI), this was the first building standard to consider the wellness of the occupants and how it relates to the relationship of the building. The IWBI has partnered with many organizations and professionals, including leaders in the wellness industry, doctors, designers, scientists, and so many more. The entire list of standards from IWBI focuses on promoting healthy lifestyles through the design and operation of the building itself.
One thing that LEED vs. WELL have in common is that both certifications involve requirements such as sustainable construction practices during the ongoing building operation. This includes water management, occupant health, positive impacts on the occupied space, and even air quality management. However, this is as far as the similarities go.
The WELL certification strongly focuses on the health and wellness of the people in the building and those surrounding it too. LEED focuses on sustainability and environmental impact. In general, these both have different focuses.
WELL vs. LEED: Certification Categories
One of the major differences between these two brands is the certification categories. Let’s take a look at both LEED and WELL offers.
WELL Building Standard
LEED Rating System
- Location and Transportation
- Sustainable Sites
- Water Efficiency
- Energy and Atmosphere
- Materials and Resources
- Indoor Environmental Quality
- Regional Priority
The LEED certificate can be found and used across the globe. However, it’s a government standard within the United States and Canada. So, it is seen as more valuable in these two countries. This is where WELL differs, as it has certified over 300 facilities, with many extending as far as China. It is quickly becoming an international certificate with a high value on a global scale; something LEED may be lacking.
Occupant Focused vs. Building Focused
The biggest difference when it comes to LEED vs. WELL would be that these certificates have a different focus. WELL uses medical and other scientific data to find connections between occupants in buildings and their relationship with them. LEED primarily focuses on the building and its operation of it. You can see this as Occupant Focused vs. Building Focused.
Since these certifications are different, you can count on the requirements and standards for each to vary too. WELL has an additional set of requirements related to ventilation, air flush, and advancements in air purification. It’s similar to LEED, as they have their own set of additional standards for energy needs, automation, and lights.
Each system will have its benefits, but it’s believed that buildings and organizations with the WELL certification tend to have increased benefits. From a business standing, the certification (specifically the requirements that are met) can offer benefits such as a reduction in medical costs, absenteeism, and even an increase in staff turnover. Building owners can expect the space to be more sought-after, meaning leasing space quickly and paying a premium rental rate charge.
In terms of ratings, this is where some slight differences happen between WELL vs. LEED. They both offer Silver, Gold, and Platinum, but that’s where the similarities stop. For LEED, the buildings are given points based on the categories, including sustainable sites, indoor environment quality, energy usage, and water efficiency. Points are given based on recycling, waste reduction, use of local materials, low-emission materials, and other energy-saving measures.
WELL's standards and ratings are based on each category and are measured based on the relationship people have with the building. WELL does count points for sound quality, amount of natural lighting, air quality, water quality, and additional policies such as healthy areas for eating, resting, exercising, and interactions with the space itself.
LEED will need to be audited before and during construction, while WELL can be audited after occupation.
One key thing organizations must keep in mind is the inspection process for building certification. For LEED vs. WELL, there are some considerable differences. Organizations after the WELL certification need to know that WELL sends someone out to inspect and give advice for the construction process. LEED, however, has a lot of paperwork that the design team will need to focus on. On-site visits are very rare. This is going to require some regular input too.
WELL mostly focuses on well-being, while LEED has a minor focus, making encouragement between these two systems different. Both require the building owners to offer some type of space for physical activity. However, the WELL standards do require all buildings to integrate biophilic designs. So, what about LEED? They mostly encourage simpler things such as storage space, a cafeteria, and bicycle facilities.
LEED vs. WELL: Which One is Better?
While both WELL vs. LEED encourages sustainable building practices and even offer systems for correlating with one another, you don’t necessarily need to choose one of the other. There isn’t any real competition between these two, as both have distinct purposes that vary from the other. It will end up being what the organization thinks is best and what certification they believe they would benefit the most from.
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