Some of the Key Differences Between LEED and WELL

Beginning in October 2014, a new building certification program was introduced.

The WELL program is similar to LEED in some ways, but different in many others.  Here are some things we suggest our readers know about the difference between these two program.

WELL refers to the WELL Building Standard®, which was launched in October 2014 to encourage green and sustainable practices. It is a privately-operated organization and includes many of the same people who were initially involved with LEED many years ago.

On the other hand, LEED, or Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, was established by the U.S. Green Building Council back in 1998. Because it is so much older than WELL, more hotel operators are apt to be familiar with this program and the LEED certification process. Further, many facilities in the U.S. are LEED certified today.

While the two organizations complement each other in many ways and have many similar goals, the fundamental difference between the two is that LEED focuses on buildings and WELL focuses on people.

Here are more things hotel operators should know about the two programs:

Like LEED, WELL is a performance-based system for measuring, certifying, and monitoring features of the built environment and how they impact human health, productivity, and comfort.

Neither LEED nor WELL are government operated.  WELL however, is operated by the International WELL Building Institute (IWBI) It is operated by the International WELL Building Institute (IWBI), a “public benefit” corporation. This means it has shareholders who expect the corporation to make a profit.  However, unlike a traditional corporation, a public benefit corporation has a specific social purpose, which in this case is to make the indoor environment healthier for people.

Many LEED-certified facilities including facilities now use what are called sustainability dashboard tools to continually measure and monitor their use of fuel, water, energy, and other metrics. These dashboard tools help reduce operating costs. But they are also very valuable in helping to reduce consumption and waste as well. While a WELL certified facility certainly can benefit from these systems if for no other reason than to lower operating costs, they are more building-focused, lending themselves to LEED certification.

WELL uses medical and related data that explore the connection between buildings and the people who work at, learn in, and use those buildings. LEED is more focused on the building itself and how it is operated.

Both organizations contract with Green Business Certification Inc. (GBCI) to certify facilities. This is an independent, third-party organization, not affiliated with either of the organizations.

LEED-certified buildings are found around the world, and WELL is steadfast in pursuit of becoming an international organization as well. As of this writing, WELL has certified nearly 300 facilities: more than 125 in the U.S. and about 50 in China.

When evaluating a property, WELL has seven categories or concepts they are most concerned with, some of which overlap with LEED. These are indoor air quality, water quality, nourishment, light, fitness, comfort, and what they refer to as “mind,” relating to the overall well-being of building users.