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Welcome to public comment for the WELL v2 pilot!

Welcome to public comment for the WELL v2 pilot!

On May 31 last year, we launched the WELL version 2 pilot: a leap forward for our standard that was co-created with our community, and done so with aspirations of accelerating our efforts to improve lives around the world.

Thanks to you, we’ve learned so much in the past year. Through the quarterly addenda process, we’ve been able to turn your ongoing insights into action, and have already made a number of important changes to the WELL v2 pilot standard. On its one year anniversary, we’re opening up a six-month public comment period: an exciting and important step as we prepare to move WELL v2 out of the pilot phase.

The intention behind a public comment period, a common process for rating systems and standards of all kinds, is simple but powerful. It’s a way to poll a community of users, collect feedback, and then use those insights to make meaningful upgrades and improvements.

At IWBI, we’re deeply invested in innovative strategies to accelerate market transformation. We strive to make WELL an expression of leadership and innovation and we want the process of public comment to reflect those same values.

For the next six months, you’ll be able to share your thoughts on a wide range of elements within the WELL v2 pilot – from feedback on scoring and certification levels to recommendations for enhancing WELL feature requirements.

Have an impassioned view on the methodology for circadian lighting? A strong feeling about thermal comfort blankets? A suggestion for an improvement to Feature V06 – Physical Activity Opportunities? We want to hear it!

Here’s where the process takes on a new sense of energy, transparency and dialogue: all of this will occur within a digital discussion forum that you can find right here, within the standard itself. In addition to sharing your own perspectives, you’ll also be able to view and respond to comments from others. The result will be a community-driven exchange of ideas, where you can agree or disagree with comments, and add your thoughts to existing threads. Instead of sending your insights off into a void, you’ll be contributing to a rich, dynamic and diverse discussion, unfolding in real time.

One of WELL’s greatest strengths is the brilliant community that surrounds it. After hosting nine roundtables in cities around the world to discuss WELL v2 ahead of its launch, we know that magic happens when we bring diverse perspectives into our test kitchen. Through this public comment process, we want to do more than serve updates to you. We want to build, grow and enhance the standard with you. And we’re grateful for your willingness to share what’s on your mind.

Your comments will aid us as we transition WELL v2 out of the pilot phase. After public comment wraps up, we will reconcile all of the insights and incorporate these perspectives into a final version of WELL v2 that has been thoroughly shaped by extensive contributions from our customers and advisors and reviewed by a governance body. In the coming months, throughout the public comment period, I’ll be hosting live, collaborative sessions with our Chief Engineer Nathan Stodola. Sign on and share your feedback directly with us.

Your participation in public comment will support our efforts to strengthen and continuously evolve and improve our standard. WELL can have a profound impact on human health worldwide, so long as we can rely on your help to learn, iterate and lead the charge.

At IWBI, we understand that the health of people and the health of our planet are inextricable; at scale, they’re one in the same. We believe that buildings can and should balance the health of people on the inside with the health of everyone else on the outside. After all, our buildings exhale what people on the sidewalk inhale. What our cars exhaust, we breathe in.

While anything and everything is on the table for public comment, our team’s aspiration has always been to avoid introducing unpiloted preconditions in moving WELL v2 out of pilot. While we’re proud to say that the majority of WELL Certified projects today have balanced considerations for people and planet, and sought a dual certification under both WELL and a green building rating system, we’re still bothered by the possibility that a project could achieve WELL Certification without sufficiently considering broader environmental impacts like greenhouse gas emissions, energy and water consumption and biodiversity. We’ve tried to encourage more projects to pursue dual certification by awarding projects with five extra points under Feature I05, Green Building Rating Systems, but is that enough? We’d like your feedback on a new WELL v2 precondition that, if introduced, would require all projects to consider the broader environmental impacts of their design and operational choices. We know that introducing a new precondition, especially an unpiloted one, could be disruptive but we also think that the reward may very well outweigh the risk. As you’re partaking in public comment, we invite you to let us know what you think about adding this potential new feature.

Thank you for your passion for WELL, and your desire to use it as a vehicle to enhance the human experience and change lives for the better. We hope you’ll spread the word to your colleagues and contacts and help us to collect a diverse and expansive set of perspectives that will help us take WELL to the next level.

I look forward to reading your comments as they roll in, and building the future of our standard together.

Be well,
Rachel

Instructions & user guide

Getting started

  • Sign in or create a WELL Online account: you’ll need one to participate in public comment.
  • Navigate to the part of the standard that you wish to comment on. Note thatgeneral comments should be submitted on the WELL Building Standard Overview page.
  • Look for the blue public comment icon in the bottom right hand corner of your screen. When you click on it, a comment box will appear. Use this box to submit and respond to comments.

Opportunities for feedback

  • The following sections are open for WELL v2 public comment:
    • Standard overview
      • Share general WELL v2 pilot comments.
      • Share comments on scoring and certification.
    • 10 WELL concepts
      • Share concept-specific comments.
    • WELL v2 features
      • Share comments on the feature intent and background.
    • Feature parts
      • Share comments on scope, requirements, standards, thresholds, verification methods and/or terminology.
      • Please be sure to specify the particular option, requirement or verification method your comment refers to, if applicable.

Types of comments

Here are some guidelines and thought-starters for the types and quality of comments we’re looking for.

  • Scientific evidence: Comment that opposes or supports the evidence behind a feature. Please include relevant links and citations.
  • Project implementation: Comment on challenges with feature implementation. Please include the project type and location.
  • Performance verification: Comment on performance verification protocols outlined in the Performance Verification Guidebook[a]. Please leave your performance verification feedback on the corresponding feature part and include suggested changes.
  • Feature language: If you think that a feature intent can be met by a strategy not included in the feature language or “strategies” section, you may suggest new or modified requirements. Please include supporting evidence and/or case studies.
  • Voice of support: If you strongly support a section, please add in your comment as a voice of support along with evidence and/or case studies.

Publishing a comment

  • Look to see if somebody posted something similar to what you are going to write. If yes, you can simply click “agree” in order to show support, and, if desired, respond to the comment.
  • Remember to prepare relevant information and links before you begin writing.
  • Confirm that the comment is being submitted for the appropriate section. Note that a published comment cannot be deleted.
  • Since WELL is an evidence-based rating system, include links to supporting evidence in the form of research studies, industry white papers or case studies.
  • You do not have to provide solutions to the challenges you highlight, but please clearly convey the challenges faced in detail.

Responding to a comment

  • Be courteous to fellow commentators – remember we are all working toward the same mission.
  • Agree: If you see a comment that reflects the intent of your comment, click “agree” and/or add a response comment.
  • Disagree: If you disagree with a comment, click “disagree” and respond to the comments with the reason why you disagree. A response is mandatory for anyone who “disagrees” with a comment.
  • Respond: If you would like to add to the discussion, you can directly respond to a comment without clicking “agree” or “disagree.”

Suggested comment & response format

Drawing a blank, or looking for a template to work from? We’ve got you covered. Use the templates below, if you’d like, to jump start your participation in public comment.

  • Comment

    I would like to [support/raise concerns about] [INSERT CONCERN] for this [Concept / Feature / Part]. The reason for my [support / concern] is [INSERT REASON]. I suggest the following change: [INSERT PROPOSED CHANGE]. Here are links to supporting documentation: [INSERT LINKS TO SUPPORTING DOCUMENTATION / EVIDENCE].

  • Response

    I [agree/disagree] with this comment. The reason is [INSERT REASON FOR SUPPORT / CONCERN]. Here are links to supporting documentation: [INSERT LINKS TO SUPPORTING DOCUMENTATION / EVIDENCE].

Keep in mind

We look forward to convening a productive and courteous dialogue. Here’s some guidance on how you can ensure your comment is in line with IWBI’s policies.

  • You comment should not:
    • Advertise or focus on the performance of a product and/or how it meets feature requirements.
    • Include profanity, obscenity or offensive remarks.
  • IWBI has the right to remove a comment that:
    • Includes profanity, obscenity or offensive remarks.
    • Advertises commercial products.
    • Contains copyrighted material or confidential information.
    • Violates IWBI’s Terms of Use.

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Today’s offices are taking design cues from hotels—and homes

In-demand amenities tout food, fitness, and community

Amenities can make or break a project for certain clients. Just ask architect Roger Heerema, principal at Wright Heerema Architects. As he envisioned the Shuman, a new building in the upscale Chicago suburb of Naperville being remade by developers at Franklin Partners, he wanted something that had undeniable curb appeal.

The space would eventually include a reworked lobby, a new fitness club, an engaging entrance experience not unlike what you’d experience at a hotel, and an upscale food-and-beverage program with a rotating cast of Chicago-area restauranteurs. It’s a dynamic experience that’s much like high-end hospitality. Or, he says, as close as one can get with suburban office space.

The Shuman, branded as a “socially-activated building,” represents what Heerema deems the “office amenity arms race”: Over the last decade and change, between the embrace of and backlash over open office plans, changing work habits, and the rise of coworking, our workspaces have been reimagined with more appeals to comfort, choice, and luxury. Design trends once relegated to either home, office, retail, or hospitality categories have merged, and today influence a middle ground of activated, amenity-laden space.

But the Shuman, which Heerema designed to be a departure from what’s normally done in the suburbs, shows how what was once exceptional is now commonplace. A strong labor market, increased competition for top tenants, and increased office space means landlords everywhere are doubling down on the latest wellness, fitness, and social features, mirroring the way companies want to use their offices to portray themselves as aspirational and open.

“Ten years ago, it was enough to have something, anything, a check-the-box amenity like a fitness center,” Heerema says. “Today, landlords [are] looking at amenities with much more interest than they did before.”

The game room at 222 Riverside in Chicago. Commercial real estate services and investment firm CBRE predicts 59.7 million square feet of office space will open before next year, which would be the largest annual addition since 2008.
James Steinkamp Photography

Competition breeds commercial changes across the country

This year marks the fourth consecutive year with more than 50 million square feet of new office space finishing construction across the nation, according to commercial brokerage JLL. Commercial real estate services and investment firm CBRE predicts 59.7 million square feet will open before next year, which would be the largest annual addition since 2008. At the same time, the tech sector, where many of the more playful office space trends originated, is taking up more total space, accounting for nearly 27 percent of the 311.9 million square feet of new leases signed last year.

More demand and more new space have led landlords and developers in every market to invest in more inviting office buildings, according to Todd Burns, president of JLL’s project and development services, from renovations to building more plug-and-play spaces, so tenants can customize their offices once they move in.

“It’s not limited to the 40-story high-rise downtown,” he says. “Even the smaller, class-B buildings are doing renovations, adding features, and reworking lobbies so you can sit down and work near the entryway.”

Nearly any aspect of an office can get amenitized, says Heerema. With the commercial real estate sector in many major cities posting single-digit vacancy rates that have recently begun rising, owners looking to make returns on big commercial investments see amenities as a quick way to create value and stand apart. That includes bowling alleys, golf simulators, and, increasingly, more elaborate rooftop decks. A top-floor tenant lounge at 123 North Wacker Drive in Chicago that Heerema designed for Lasalle Investment Management features a two-story, 5,000-foot lounge with a glass wall that opens to the outdoors. Even washrooms have become something to brag about.

Marques Williams, a global broker in the media and technology group at commercial real estate firm Cushman & Wakefield the competition to acquire space ,and therefore talent, is the primary dynamic driving the market.

“The entire spectrum of creative office supply has been impacted by coworking,” he says. “However, it’s happening at a time when industry-specific advances, merger and acquisition activity, and IPOs for media and tech companies are at an all-time high.”

The chase, says Williams, has led landlords to “reverse engineer” architectural and design strategies for specific tenants.

“As companies battle it out in the war for talent, they need to be cognizant of the impact an office environment has on recruitment and retention,” says JLL’s Burns. “Choosing the right office style means real bottom-line impact.”

The golf simulator at 222 Riverside. “It they’re into golf, the building will get a golf simulator, they’ll get dog runs, anything that keeps people happy.”
James Steinkamp Photography

How office amenities are evolving

A good way to measure the increased investment in amenities is to look at tenant improvement (TI) allowances, the sum landlords agree to spend on updating a space during negotiations with tenants. A JLL study found spending on TIs rose 10 percent in 2017 and 13 percent in 2018.

“TIs are clearly going up because there’s more space in the market that’s available,” JLL’s Burns says. “Landlords have to compete more and more for tenants.”

That means tenants get pretty much whatever they want. Take Austin, a poster child for tech-led growth, with new or expanded offices from Apple, Facebook, and many others. According to Troy Holme, the vice president of CBRE’s Austin office, vacancy is in the single digits across the metro area, and under 5 percent in certain areas.

“It they’re into golf, the building will get a golf simulator, they’ll get dog runs, anything that keeps people happy,” he says. “Right now, people are warehousing space in advance. We have a pipeline two to three years out of new space coming online in Austin.”

Landlords can follow numerous routes to better their office assets. Some are going green and banking on the appeal—and health benefits—of cleaner, more sustainable interior space. The market for third-party verification of various green building standards is expected to reach $254 billion by 2020, according to the Green Building Alliance.

Others have banked on tech, including ultra-fast broadband and wireless connections, smart windows, and smart home-style apps that make it easier to book meetings and track space usage. According to a CBRE study quoted in the New York Times, audiovisual costs for new offices have skyrocketed, going from an average of $5 per square foot five years ago to $10 to $20 per square foot today. Newer, high-profile offices, like Bloomberg’s London space and the Edge in Amsterdam, showcase a focus on data-driven design and services.

The burgeoning market for such technology only reinforces that it makes a real difference. Venture capital investment in real estate technologies hit $9.6 billion in 2018, according to CREtech, and, last week, Cushman & Wakefield announced a partnership with Stanford University’s Disruptive Technology and Digital Cities Program to start working on transformative technologies within the commercial space.

Living in a WeWork world

Few companies symbolize changing work styles and amenity-heavy offices more than coworking giant WeWork, which mainstreamed the idea of company beer taps and creative communal workspaces. Originally marketed as a home for entrepreneurs, the company has recently moved up the value chain, with nearly a third of its membership coming from enterprise clients (businesses with 1,000 or more employees) and a growing business managing custom spaces for big businesses. Along with tech office tropes like stadium seating, the company’s design cues and approach have become de rigueur.

Liz Burow, a vice president and the company’s director of workplace strategy, says WeWork’s design success comes as much from strategy as it does from supplemental drinks. Landlords, and the coworking company, can add amenities, but need to think through what they do, why they work together, and most importantly, how they bring people together.

 

As with retail today, commercial space providers are competing with the couch, and need to figure out what they can offer that will get people to leave home. Increasingly, she says, the answer is experiences and community. Amenities alone aren’t the answer.

“I call it the Disneyland effect,” she says. “Sure, Disney looks great, but nobody visits just to look at the environment and walk around. Disney works because the company has activated the space.”

Burow says design needs to be about community and connection, creating spaces and activities that provide a social nudge. Great common space or a cafe can be transformative, but not merely by dint of their existence. They need to be properly programmed. That’s why WeWork has invested so much in ancillary companies and services like MeetUp, the digital community site, and the Flatiron School, the coding academy, as well as various meetings in WeWork locations focused on topics of interest to startups and entrepreneurs.

Burow uses icebergs as a metaphor for the usefulness of new-wave office amenities: The features you see in a modern office are the ice above the waterline. But the culture, programming, and vision that make those spaces work, that’s the part that you don’t see. Amenities can help recruitment and retention to a point, but culture, at the end of the day, is what makes everything click.

“An office should be the physical manifestation of a company saying ‘we want you to feel comfortable and relax,’” Burow says. “It’s about driving to something much deeper, that we trust you to do your work, and be where you need to be. The company needs to solve that, and not just with the way it designs its office.”

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