The WELL Building Standard is a performance-based system for measuring, certifying and monitoring features of the built environment that impact the health and well-being of the people in the buildings. The standard is administered by the International WELL Building Institute and third-party certified by Green Business Certification Inc.
TD’s 23rd floor was certified at the WELL Gold level after 25,000 square feet of space was renovated over 18 months by using TD’s existing corporate design standards and WELL’s “New and Existing Interiors” typology. The renovation was part of a larger optimization project at the TD Centre, which is owned and managed by Cadillac Fairview.
WELL is complementary to LEED
WELL is unrelated but complementary to the LEED building standard and focuses on seven categories of building performance: air, water, nourishment, light, fitness, comfort and mind.
“LEED looks at how we can minimize our impact on the environment whereas WELL looks at how we create built environments and minimize the impact on the human occupant,” said Barbara Ciesla, senior vice-president of strategic consulting for JLL, who consulted on the project.
“This is a very performance-based standard, so it’s not that you’re meeting certain mechanical requirements. They come in and test air and water quality, and noise levels, and you have to make sure that you’re achieving the thresholds or else you do not pass. There are a lot more preconditions in this standard than there are prerequisites in LEED.”
TD Bank Group design director for enterprise real estate Martha MacInnis said the company pursued the certification because it has “a vested interest in every employee” and that the TD Centre’s 23rd floor was the first of what will be several WELL pilot projects. The 170 occupants of the space filled out pre-occupancy surveys before moving in last September and will complete a similar form after residing there for a year so TD can compare data and help it decide its future with WELL.
TD and Cadillac Fairview partnership
“It was really important for us to partner with Cadillac Fairview so we could take advantage of some of the features that already exist at TD Centre,” said MacInnis of the more than 4.3-million-square-foot complex that last year had all six of its towers certified LEED Platinum and has had $200 million spent on greening and revitalizing it in recent years.
“If you’re pursuing a WELL project, the first thing you should do is talk to your landlord about their level of involvement and interest in pursuing it along with you.”
Cadillac Fairview supported the bank’s pursuit of a WELL certification with money, employee time and other resources, including working with consultants. It was most involved with the air quality, ventilation and water elements of the project, and TD Centre general manager David Hoffman said it enabled Cadillac Fairview to further push the envelope in its evolving approach to sustainability.
“Design and operations are very well understood and are something that we’ve known and practiced and done research on for a very long time. However, it’s the people and their behaviours that are critical to any high-performing building. People are often the missing piece in the sustainability puzzle because human behaviour is so complex.”
Project’s WELL features
Among the more than 60 WELL features incorporated into the 23rd floor were: water filtration systems being installed in taps; optimal lighting; lighter coloured work surfaces; ergonomic chairs, desks, tools and training; the installation of carbon filtration into the existing mechanical system; the establishment of a “tranquility lounge” where employees can’t take laptops or work; additional café seating; and adding nutritious food.
“We went through an exhaustive effort with our vending provider because the nourishment requirements for WELL are applicable if you supply any sort of food on site, even if you’re not cooking it,” said MacInnis. “We had to go through each beverage and snack product sold in the vending machines to make sure they met the standard.”
MacInnis said a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables are also delivered regularly and have become a big hit with employees. A council within the business unit on the 23rd floor was voluntarily created to focus on health and wellness issues, and signage and messaging has been installed to explain WELL’s physical features and program elements.
The WELL standard is still evolving and it requires measures that need to be put in place to meet future challenges even if the tenant isn’t faced with them now, MacInnis said.
WELL has enrolled 154 building projects in 17 countries to date. Nine additional projects are registered to pursue WELL certification in Canada, including Toronto’s Bay Park Centre, several CBRE offices and Oxford Properties Group’s MNP Tower in Vancouver.