The WELL Building Standard (WELL v1) was introduced to the world more than four years ago in September 2014 with the goal of promoting better buildings that help people thrive. According to the New York-based International WELL Building Institute (IWBI) website, WELL is a performance-based system for measuring and certifying features of the built environment that impact human health and wellbeing through air, water, nourishment, light, movement, thermal comfort, sound, materials, mind and community. It marries best practices in design and construction with evidence-based medical and scientific research, harnessing the built environment as a vehicle to support human health and wellbeing.
During the past few years, more than 1,000 projects across 43 countries have registered for WELL certification or have already been certified by IWBI. Informed by the lessons learned from these projects and the global network of WELL Accredited Professionals (WELL APs), IWBI launched the pilot version of WELL v2 in May 2018. As WELL continues to evolve, some fundamental refinements and enhancements have been incorporated into the WELL v2 pilot. And since the WELL v2 pilot was launched, more than 200 projects have already registered.
With the growing interest in WELL v2, determining how to effectively achieve certification under it is gaining more momentum. This article focuses on exploring the changes in the Light Concept of the WELL v2 pilot and discusses how to utilize those changes to benefit the design of lighting and lighting controls.
WELL v2 Is Better
In addition to its impact on the visual system, it is well known that light has a significant non-visual impact on human health and wellbeing. The intensity, wavelength, duration, and timing of light can affect our alertness, mood, endocrine function and circadian rhythms. Circadian system disruption and prevention of melatonin release caused by light exposure have been linked to obesity, diabetes, depression, mood disorders and reproductive issues, among others. (Read a study titled “Measuring and Using Light in the Melanopsin Age,” published in the U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.) Because of these known associations, one of the main goals of the Light Concept in the WELL Building Standard is to provide guidelines for minimizing the disruption of our circadian systems, enhancing productivity and enhancing visual acuity.
Compared to WELL v1, the scope of the Light Concept in the WELL v2 pilot is more comprehensive while the feature structure is more concise with more focused preconditions and optimizations. Also, there is more flexibility within each feature: More pathways are available for the project team to be able to achieve the feature intent. While still emphasizing access to circadian-effective light indoors, either from daylight or electric sources like in WELL v1, the Light Concept in the WELL v2 pilot has undergone major consolidation and refinement. (Comparisons between WELL v1 and the v2 pilot are available.) The following are some detailed examples:
MORE COMPREHENSIVE SCOPE The most important change related to lighting is that the WELL v2 pilot has added three new lighting-related components to its scope:
- Lighting education
- Electric light flicker
- Lighting control
These are in addition to the six light components originally covered in WELL v1:
- Circadian design
- Glare control
- Activity-based lighting
- Color quality
- Visual acuity
Now included as the second part of Feature L01 – Light Exposure and Education is a precondition to promote lighting education for all projects. Knowledge learned from previous experience shows that educating building occupants about circadian rhythm, sleep hygiene, age-related increase in light requirements, and the importance of daylight exposure on circadian and mental health is critical to the success of building management post-occupation, as well as to any kind of human-centric lighting control strategy.
The array of smart lighting and controls available today enables a multi-level interaction between a user and system. If the user is not fully equipped with the relevant knowledge, the advanced control capability of the system may become overwhelming or challenging to the occupants and facilities personnel. Educational materials, such as informative signage next to control keypads, brochures for distribution, and short lunch and learns informed by the design team and building management team, can help improve employees’ awareness about how indoor environments impact their lives, including the non-visual impacts of office task lights and the overall lighting system.
Another change in the scope in WELL v2 focuses on electric light flicker management, which has been added in Feature L07. Direct and indirect flicker perceived by our eyes can have a negative impact on our visual performance. (Read an article about this from the Journal of Light & Visual Environment.) Tunable and dimmable solid-state lighting systems can have flicker issues during their operation period if not manufactured or used properly. By adding this requirement, the WELL v2 pilot encourages the use of high-quality electric lighting systems. These technologies are being introduced into WELL certified projects more frequently.
Enhanced ability for occupants to control ambient lighting systems also has been added as a new feature (Feature L08). The WELL v2 pilot encourages projects to create more personalized lighting experiences by utilizing advanced lighting controls, such as white-tunable lighting and other smart lighting strategies. Because this feature is applicable to all space types, it can be included in living spaces, as well, especially in smart home projects where tunable and personalized lighting are frequently used.