The GHB Interview: Jessica Cooper, Chief Commercial Officer, International WELL Building Institute

IWBI is blazing trails toward a more sustainable future

GREEN HOME BUILDER: Would you elaborate to our readers about what the International WELL Building Institute is and the history of the organization?

JESSICA COOPER: The International WELL Building Institute (IWBI) is leading the global movement to transform our buildings and communities in ways that help people thrive. IWBI delivers the cutting-edge WELL Building Standard, the leading global rating system and the first to be focused exclusively on the ways that buildings, and everything in them, can improve our comfort, drive better choices, and generally enhance, not compromise, our health and wellness.

WELL v2 is a recently launched version of the popular WELL Building Standard, and the WELL Community Standard pilot is a district scale rating system that sets a new global benchmark for healthy communities. The WELL Portfolio program enables organizations to implement proven wellness strategies at the enterprise scale, and the WELL Portfolio Score is a benchmark that reflects an organization’s leadership and progress in advancing human health.

IWBI mobilizes the global wellness community through management of the WELL AP credential, convenes a global network of organizations through IWBI membership, pursues applicable research, develops educational resources and advocates for policies that promote health and wellness everywhere.

GHB: Talk about the WELL Certification and what the process is like to achieve that certification. What is the scoring like?

JC: Spanning over 100 features and 10 concepts, WELL is a roadmap for improving our health and wellbeing. Projects pursuing WELL Certification can earn points based on performance outcomes for various policy, design and operational strategies and can achieve one of four certification levels: Bronze, Silver, Gold or Platinum.

WELL is made up of a series of criteria, some of which are designated as preconditions, and others as optimizations. Preconditions as the foundation of a healthy building and are therefore mandatory and universally applied across all projects. From this baseline, projects will select a series of optimizations that meet their needs. All optimizations are weighted with varying point values based on its potential for impact. With 110 points available in each project scorecard, projects have a lot of flexibility to customize their approach.

GHB: What are some green trends home features/amenities that you see are being implemented the most by homebuilders?

JC: While we continuously see market engagement in WELL grow across all sectors, engagement in multi-family residential is one of our fastest growing markets. We have seen rapid uptake in this sector over the past year, and we are excited to continue nurturing and supporting this increased commitment to health in the residential space.

With shelter-in-place orders and shutdowns across the globe in recent months, residences are not only acting as our homes, but as offices, classrooms, gyms and more. With this in mind, we’ve seen an increased focus on features such as air quality monitoring and remediation, strategies to promote work-from-home ergonomics, lighting design to help improve sleep and energy levels.

GHB: During these unusual times, why do you think it’s important for builders to go green?

JC: Multi-family project owners tell us they are seeking WELL Certification to attract and retain residents, maximize rent potential and building resale value, differentiate their properties and promote optimal health and well-being for residents. They place great value on being able to provide residents with authentic messages that can help to improve their lives, a marketing narrative that deepens relationships and trust.

GHB: What advice can you offer homebuilders who might be on the fence about going green?

JC: In an effort to stop the spread of COVID-19, people are spending more time at home. With this increased time spent at home, homebuilders have a unique opportunity to place the health and wellness of dwelling spaces at the forefront of their priorities to ensure residents feel safe inside.

With this increased time spent at home, homebuilders have a unique opportunity to place the health and wellness of dwelling spaces at the forefront of their priorities to ensure residents feel safe inside.

GHB: Are there any recently certified residential projects that stand out that you’d like to mention?

JC: One great example in Illinois is Essex on the Park, a 479-unit residential building in Chicago, developed by Oxford Capital Group that achieved WELL Certification at the Silver level. Some of the health-promoting features include a four-story winter garden that brings nature indoors during all seasons, building-wide window shades to help support residents’ circadian rhythm and nourishment discussions led by a professional chef.

GHB: Anything we didn’t talk about that you’d like to touch on?

JC: Affordable housing plays a critical role in the lives of millions, providing the basics of what a home needs to be. But we know it can be so much more. Our homes are the most important places in our lives, a place to rest and restore, to raise our families and to connect with our communities. For this reason, Enterprise and IWBI have spent more than a year integrating WELL features into Enterprise’s Green Communities Criteria, resulting in a product and plaque that will, for the first time, represent a dual pathway towards human and planetary health.