Picking up where “WELLness in Labs: Part 1” left off, this article continues investigating incorporating concepts from the WELL Building Standard (WELL) into laboratory environments. The previous article introduced WELL, the drivers for growing interest of mindfully promoting health across the built environment, and focused on WELL's air, water and nourishment concepts. This article explains the remaining four WELL concepts: light, fitness, comfort and mind.


Biophilic spaces abound through outdoor vistas, the use of natural colors, textures, and materials, and through beautiful artwork showcasing elements of the research being conducted.​LEED and the Living Building Challenge address light primarily for energy reduction. WELL asserts the importance of light quality pertaining to spatial perception and reinforcing natural circadian rhythms. Like LEED, it provides thresholds for lighting, shielding, color rendering index (CRI), glare reduction, surface reflectance, visible light transmittance, etc. Several recommended elements are mainstays in current sustainable lab design (daylight/occupant sensors with automatic dimming and task lighting); yet, WELL is more stringent and prescriptive in its recommendation for internal and external glazing for glare reduction. WELL separates all glazing into two categories: "view glazing" (0 ft. to 7 ft. above finished floor) and "daylight glazing" (7 ft. above finished floor and up). WELL recommends using separate glare reduction strategies per each type, including internal or external blinds, light shelves, microfilms and/or electrochromic glazing to reduce visible light transmission at least 90 percent (all glazing, internal and external), which will greatly impact aesthetics and potentially add great cost. WELL introduces the European concept of "Right to Light," expressed as 75 percent of regularly occupied spaces and workstations within 25 ft. of perimeter glazing and 95 percent within 41 ft. of perimeter glazing. This implies a prototypical lab bar approximately 125 ft. 0 in. wide or less, considering a 30-ft. core depth, which is not revolutionary; however, it is worth mentioning labs favor deeper lease depths for maximum flexibility, and speculative lab building widths often start at 130 ft. 0 in.—some even proposing 60 ft. lease depths!


WELL promotes passive circulation throughout the built environment. Borrowing from the Center for Active Design's Active Design Guidelines, it promotes stair use through signage, preferential placement, tread widths, quality lighting, art and even music inclusion. It seeks a diversity of spaces onsite for group/personal recreation and classes and recommends subsidies for staff personal health programs and health monitoring devices. WELL introduces WalkScore as a quality metric measuring exterior active design and alternative transportation access. It reinforces familiar concepts from LEED, such as providing bike storage and showers; however, it recommends additional changing rooms, lockers and personal storage based on occupant count. Within workplaces, WELL recommends a minimum 60 percent of workstations be height adjustable for sitting or standing, as well as combinations of treadmill desks and bike desks available on reserve for 3 percent of occupants. Activity regimens to engage staff and promote healthy outcomes are not uncommon in labs; yet, success in terms of WELL compliance relies equally on quality of provided amenities, proximity to off-site amenities, and through policies to incentivize their use—all current barriers to healthier lifestyles. WELL begins to question how a climbing wall might fill a potentially lifeless lobby—similar to trends seen across high-tech companies. One of the best manifestations of this is the J. Craig Venter Institute in La Jolla, Calif., where staff have surf board "parking" and are allowed flexible hours to take in waves!


This concept marries four areas not considered in any other standard: thermal, olfactory, acoustic and ergonomic. Regarding ergonomics, all WELL projects must be American for Disabilities Act (ADA) compliant—a potential barrier to entry for historically important projects. It recommends adjustable monitors, furniture, furnishings, and spaces to accommodate a series of ranges. It provides noise criteria for internal/external environments, systems noise limits and criteria for limiting sound trespass. LEED methods for limiting chemical pollution and source control are applied for olfactory comfort. For thermal comfort (referencing LEEDv4/ASHRAE 55-2013), WELL recommends radiant systems (hydronic or electric radiant floors) for workplace comfort. This is one of the strongest synergies between health and energy reduction through aligning features from the air Concept and LEED certification. Air recommends use of operable windows, direct outdoor air systems (DOAS), and displacement ventilation for improved indoor air quality, energy reduction and improved health. Since LEED and WELL are (hypothetically) applied in tandem, systems which separate ventilation and comfort systems represent a "silver bullet" for high levels of certification in both systems. While innovative, this would be revolutionary and cost-prohibitive in most markets and functionally inappropriate in many lab environments (UFAD); however, these limitations could be overcome where energy reduction is prized (net-zero energy) or where the percentage of lab space is minimal relative to the percentage of low-acuity workplace.


Several subtle details are included throughout the public spaces of the building which not only reinforce the research conducted but exist purely for beauty and delight of occupants.Awareness is crucial throughout all WELL concepts. WELL requires making all features public knowledge, integrated design process, post occupancy evaluations (POE), and on-going re-certification every three years through the IWBI to maintain certification (except Core and Shell projects). Mind references the Living Building Challenge's "Spirit and Beauty" petal, attempting to clarify, quantify, and intensify human propensities for nature (biophilia) through the medium of the built environments by incorporating internal/external natural features, sounds, smells, patterns, textures and other elements for beauty and delight. Spatially, it calls for human-scaled spaces and dedicated meditation/sleep spaces. Mind is more policy-driven, encompassing health aspects beyond company time, including recommending work limits to encourage healthy sleep, subsidies for personal devices to measure health and wellness metrics, healthy business travel, flex spending and time off for personal/familial health, access to onsite Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) and policies for altruistic endeavors including matching charitable contributions and/or paid time for company-sponsored volunteering. Such policies are great PR and recruitment/retention tools, as well as can help align missions with other organizations. WELL promotes the idea of transparency as a business model, defined by their penchant for policies, reporting, recertification, making information public domain, and through an innovation borrowed from the International Living Future Institute (ILFI)—the JUST label. WELL awards credit for companies who benchmark themselves using this metric, which entails an inventory on diversity, equity, safety, benefits, and stewardship. This and/or the G4 Sustainability Reporting Guidelines can be publicly displayed as an emblems of commitment to transparency and continual improvement across categories. Mind flows deeper than space; it is the DNA of a company.


Whether spatial or policy, ideas manifest by WELL features reach beyond thinking about typical lab drivers: modules, flows and other pragmatic concerns. WELL revives the notion of "total design," where a designer designs an "experience," taking the concept throughout the whole building down to the furniture and silverware! While exciting, it provides logistical challenges for how to execute and deliver WELL as a service, as it vastly extends beyond traditional scope of involved parties in design and construction, and it involves the expertise of many professionals not traditionally involved with planning the built environment. Collaboration will be critical to achieve WELL throughout the entire life-cycle of a project. No longer are occupants merely spectators; their thriving is finally the focus of a robust third-party sustainability rating system!

For more information, download WELL for free from

Blake Jackson is a registered architect, Associate and is the Sustainability Practice Leader with Tsoi/Kobus & Associates in Cambridge, Mass. He has over 12 years of experience in retail, hospitality, higher education, healthcare, labs and commercial structures.


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Several subtle details are included throughout the public spaces of the building which not only reinforce the research conducted but exist purely for beauty and delight of occupants.

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