The AI Interview: Jason Hartke, Executive Vice President, International WELL Building Institute

IWBI: prioritizing people’s physical and mental health.

Green Home Builder: Tell me about the International WELL Building Institute and its philosophy.

Jason Hartke: The International WELL Building Institute (IWBI) is the world’s leading organization focused on deploying people-first places to advance a global culture of health. At IWBI, we believe that the way we design, operate and manage our places have a big impact on our performance, our physical and mental health. 

Our work is focused on transforming health and well-being with the people-first approach to buildings and organizations. We mobilize our community through the administration of the WELL Building Standard (WELL) and the WELL Health-Safety Rating, management of the WELL AP credential, the pursuit of applicable research, the development of educational resources, and advocacy for policies that promote health and well-being everywhere. 

GHB: What are the benefits to being WELL certified?

JH: WELL is a global framework for an organization to prioritize the health and well-being of employees, customers and all other stakeholders. At the project level, these health strategies align with several financial benefits including higher rents and faster leasing cycle, attracting and retaining better tenants, and helping boost productivity. 

At the organization level, it’s all about investing in health by advancing the health and well-being of a company’s most valuable asset – its people. WELL provides an opportunity to inculcate health and well-being across and through the entire organization, from the real estate assets to operations and maintenance, HR and the C-suite. 

There is a powerful opportunity for organizations to differentiate themselves by leading on, and being accountable to, health and well-being. In addition, WELL helps organizations to better enhance Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) performance by demonstrating commitment to exemplary management of human and social capital, seen, for example, by WELL’s strong alignment with GRESB, the leading ESG global benchmark for real estate.

“Our work is focused on transforming health and well-being with the people-first approach to buildings and organizations.”

GHB: How does a building achieve WELL certification?

JH: Any building of any space type can achieve WELL Certification under the WELL Building Standard or achieve the WELL Health-Safety Rating under the WELL Health-Safety Rating for Facility Operations and Management. WELL Certification and WELL Health-Safety Rating are applicable to either single asset or an entire portfolio. 

To become WELL Certified, a good place for a project or a portfolio to start is to assess its health and well-being goals with the WELL scorecard, and then enroll the project(s). Once enrolled, a set of robust online tools including the dynamic scorecard help project teams customize strategies based on their set goals. 

During the next stage, project teams implement their strategies towards the goal. When they have implemented the various features, they submit documents to a trusted third-party for review and verification. 

WELL Certified projects must go through an independent on-site performance testing on air, water, light and sound quality alongside on-site spot-check and design verification. After passing the performance verification, a project achieves WELL Certification at its appropriate level. WELL Certified projects are subject to annual reporting through continuous monitoring, and recertification every three years. 

GHB: What building trends do you see coming for next year?

JH: COVID-19 has created a deep sense of awareness about the role buildings play on our physical and mental health. All around the world, that awareness has driven a more urgent demand for WELL and its evidence-based health interventions across our built environment. 

In the face of public health issues, our buildings are now in a position to serve as a first line of defense and as frontline caregivers, whether it’s utilizing strategies to fight against COVID-19 or other health threats. In addition, with WELL, occupants and clients alike know the measures taken are backed by science and validated by trusted authorities. 

GHB: Where do you see green, sustainable building practices in the next few years?

JH: As the world responds to the defining health challenges created by climate change alongside the prolonged public health crisis of the pandemic, we now know unequivocally that sustainability is about both planetary health and human health. 

We are happy to see more and more people embark on the vision that sustainable buildings must promote human health and well-being while also working aggressively to decarbonize. Doing both together is not only the expectation, but the imperative moving forward.