In this post, we are taking a closer look at the WELL Health Safety Rating air quality guidelines.
We are entering a serious phase of the COVID-19 response with cities coast-to-coast enacting emergency orders to limit spread. The good news about potential vaccines is a light at the end of the tunnel, and commercial real estate owners and operators are looking for smart ways to prepare for a safe re-opening and to communicate crucial information about COVID-readiness to building occupants and tenants.
We’ve extensively covered the COVID-readiness rating systems, and now we are looking more closely at the specific requirements that building operators need to consider as they choose the rating system that best aligns with their goals and values.
Let’s take a closer look at the WELL Health Safety Rating’s air quality features.
The WELL Health Safety Rating was developed to help building owners adapt to the COVID-19 pandemic. The WELL Health Safety Rating is based on the WELL Building Standard but has fewer features than a WELL certification. Additionally, achieving a WELL Health Safety Rating can contribute to a WELL certification.
Speed was top of mind for IWBI in developing the WELL Health Safety Rating, and the requirements of the rating are designed to be deployed quickly and without major investments. There are 21 design features to choose from, and Health Safety Rating requires achieving 15 of those features. There are five features in the WELL Air and Water Quality Management category, of which three apply to air quality:
- Assess ventilation
- Assess and maintain air treatment systems
- Monitor air and water quality
This WELL Health Safety Rating air quality feature requires projects to assess their ability to bring in fresh air from the outside through mechanical and/or natural means in order to dilute human- and material-generated air pollutants. The assessment addresses the highest supply rate of outdoor air the current system can provide; potential modifications to system controls to increase the supply of outdoor air; the extent to which the current system can operate without recirculating air; and how/if any of the potential HVAC system modifications would affect energy consumption, thermal comfort conditions, and maintenance processes.
This feature requires an assessment of what the system can handle but does not require minimum performance thresholds be met.
Assess and Maintain Air Treatment Systems:
This feature requires the project to inventory air filters and other treatment devices used throughout the building to ensure proper tracking and maintenance. This is important because particles exhaled by infected individuals that contain airborne diseases such as COVID-19 can remain suspended several hours or longer and can be recirculated through the ducts of the building.
To meet this requirement, projects need to provide an inventory of all filters and UVGI equipment currently used to treat the air in ducts and air handling units, fan coil units, and standalone cleaning devices. A qualified engineer will need to assess the highest efficiency of filter media or other particle filters that can be installed with the current mechanical system, and the capacity of the current mechanical system to utilize UVGI equipment. The project will need to provide either the conditions under which the project will install these treatment systems or a timeline for the installation of the treatment systems.
For devices identified in the System Inventory, the project must provide evidence that the filters and/or UV lamps have been replaced according to the manufacturer’s recommendation.
Monitor Air and Water Quality:
This feature requires projects to monitor air and water quality at least once a year. The World Health Organization (WHO) and other regulatory bodies such as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) identify a list of “criteria” air pollutants and have established permissible levels for such criteria pollutants based on epidemiological studies that show the relationships between concentrations of these pollutants, duration of exposure and health risks.
Each year, the following pollutants are monitored (or tested) in regularly occupied spaces:
- 5 and/or PM10
- Total VOCs and/or Formaldehyde
- Carbon Monoxide
The WELL Health Safety Rating offers building owners flexibility for older buildings where it may not be feasible to upgrade mechanical equipment or MERV efficiency at this time. It requires owners to understand their building’s capacity but doesn’t demand that they achieve any particular level of performance in order to achieve certification.
- Well Health Safety Rating Website
- Fitwel Viral Response Module: A Closer Look At The Enhanced Indoor Air Quality Policy Requirements
- Three Strategies To Improve The Wellness Of Building Systems And Gain Tenant Trust
- October Update: Covid-19 Certification Options
- Update: Covid-Readiness Certification Options
- Green Cleaning And The Coronavirus
- Covid Readiness: Iwbi And Usgbc Seek To Help Businesses Quantify Risk
- The Environmental Impact Of Covid-19