June 13, 2024

Continuous Air Quality Monitoring for the WELL Building Standard

Green Buildings

In this blog post, we will focus on requirements for measuring and controlling indoor air quality to meet the WELL Building Standard version 2 (WELL v2) by IWBI.

Most of these guidelines also apply to the WELL Performance Rating, which can be pursued independently or as a step toward full WELL Certification.

What is WELL v2?

WELL v2 Standard, introduced by the International WELL Building Institute (IWBI) in 2018, is a performance-based system for the built environment and communities that enhances occupants' health and well-being. It demonstrates how to optimize spaces for well-being by improving air, water, and light quality, to transform buildings and organizations for healthier living.

The maximum score a project can achieve is 110 points. This scale equates 40 points with Bronze certification, 50 points with Silver, 60 with Gold, and 80 with the Platinum level.

WELL v2 comprises ten concepts, each consisting of features with distinct health intents. Features are categorized as either preconditions or optimizations. This blog post will explore how to earn points for the Air and Thermal Comfort concepts.

WELL v2  ten concepts

Air Quality in the WELL Building Standard

Two key concepts in WELL related to indoor air quality are Air (A) and Thermal Comfort (T), assessed based on the features indicated in the table below. These features are divided into two categories: 

  • Preconditions (P), which are obligatory for baseline certification;
  • Optimizations (O), which are optional enhancements.
Air (A) and Thermal Comfort (T) features in WELL v2

Performance Test Requirements and Continuous Air Quality Monitoring

To earn points, sampling must be conducted under typical conditions in areas where occupants are commonly present.

To keep its WELL Certified status, projects need to annually share data through WELL Online for specific features. 

The performance testing agent should annually test some of these features on-site. Alternatively, you can install an air quality monitor, such as Atmocube, which has recently received the Works with WELL Mark and facilitates continuous air quality monitoring. 

Below, you'll find the minimum requirements for various air pollutant concentrations across the features where continuous indoor air quality (IAQ) monitoring ensures compliance. These requirements apply to all spaces except commercial kitchens.

Note: this is a summary of the required thresholds. To learn more, follow WELL v2 official website.

The Air Concept in WELL v2 Standard and IAQ Monitoring

A01 Air Quality (Precondition)

A01 consists of five sections outlining air quality thresholds for various pollutants and procedures for ensuring compliance within a project. Pollutants in Parts 1-3 are measured annually and reported via the WELL digital platform, while continuous monitors adhere to the Performance Verification Guidebook guidelines. Continuous monitoring is only applicable to Parts 1-4, as outlined in the table below. 

A01 Air Quality (Precondition)

A05 Enhanced Air Quality (Optimization)

This WELL feature demands projects to exceed standard guidelines for enhanced air quality. It comprises three parts, each needing verification through performance tests or sensor data.

A05 Enhanced Air Quality (Optimization)

A03 Ventilation Design and A06 Enhanced Ventilation Design

Monitoring CO2 levels can indicate indoor ventilation performance, with levels below 800 ppm significantly reducing health risks. Demand-controlled ventilation and displacement ventilation are effective strategies for maintaining indoor air quality while minimizing energy usage.

The WELL Standard defines CO2 thresholds in the A03 Ventilation Design and A06 Enhanced Ventilation Design concepts. Check out this article to learn about CO2 thresholds across different Green Building Certification systems. 

The A03 Ventilation Design precondition aims to tackle air pollution by ensuring proper airflow in your spaces. There are four options available to meet the precondition; however, continuous monitoring is only applicable in Option 4. For Option 4, ventilation monitoring, CO2 levels in occupiable spaces must meet the following thresholds:

  • 900 ppm or less.
  • No more than 500 ppm higher than outdoor levels.
A03 Ventilation Design (Precondition)

Additionally, to earn 2 points for A06 Enhanced Ventilation Design Part 1, advanced ventilation strategies that can achieve higher air quality levels must be implemented, through four different options. Yet, again, continuous monitoring is only applicable in Option 4. For Option 4, an air quality sensor should prove that one of the following carbon dioxide thresholds is met in occupiable spaces:

  • 750 ppm or less.
  • No more than 350 ppm above outdoor levels.

By adopting IAQ monitoring, you can opt for Ventilation Monitoring (Option 4) to fulfill Part 1 requirements and earn 2 points.

A06 Enhanced Ventilation Design (Optimization)

A08 Air Quality Monitoring and Awareness (Optimization)

Every building should have air quality sensors to ensure healthy indoor environments. Even if the WELL Assessor executes performance tests on-site for all the previous features (A01, A03, A05, A06), you should later submit yearly reports from the air quality sensors in your building to get points for A08 Air Quality Monitoring and Awareness. Air quality monitoring and activities to increase public awareness of indoor air quality bring two additional points to the building rating.

Since air quality can vary throughout the day, real-time monitoring is essential to quickly address any issues and reduce exposure to pollutants. Accurate assessment also depends on using well-calibrated sensors and placing them correctly.

According to the requirements of Part 1: Install Indoor Air Monitors, which gives 1 point, monitors should be recalibrated annually and measure at least three air pollutants from this list:

  1. PM2.5 or PM10
  2. Carbon dioxide
  3. Carbon monoxide
  4. Ozone
  5. Nitrogen dioxide
  6. Total VOCs
  7. Formaldehyde

To comply with Part 1, you should also provide proof of calibration or replacement annually per the requirements of the WELL Performance Verification Guidebook.

At least one air quality monitor should be installed on every floor or every 325 m2 or 3,500 sq ft. If Part 1 is completed, you can also achieve 1 point for promoting air quality awareness.

The air quality data collected in Part 1 of this initiative is shared with occupants in the following ways:

  • The information is displayed on screens strategically placed at a height of 3.6–5.6 ft, with at least one screen per 5400 ft2 of regularly used space. Alternatively, it can be accessed through a website or mobile app available to occupants. Signs are placed to indicate where the data can be found, with at least one sign per 5400 ft2 of regularly used space.
  • The displayed data includes either the measured parameter concentrations or qualitative air quality results (e.g., color-coded levels).
  • Updates are made at least every 15 minutes to ensure accuracy.
Atmocube indoor air quality monitor

For these purposes, building owners/contractors can install Atmocube — an air quality monitor which received the Works with WELL Mark. Atmocube, an air quality monitoring system with HVAC integration, measures particulate matter, CO, O3, formaldehyde, and TVOC. The device measurements are saved to the cloud and can be accessed by occupants through the web application.

The Thermal Comfort Concept in WELL v2 and IAQ Monitoring

T01 Thermal Performance (Precondition)

This WELL feature requires projects to create indoor thermal environments that ensure comfortable conditions for most occupants. There are three options available to choose from to meet the precondition:

  • Performance-verified environmental conditions, which can be verified by engineer’s letter of assurance, performance test, or technical document (Shareable);
  • Long-term thermal data, which can be verified by sensor data;
  • Thermal comfort surveys.

However, continuous monitoring is only applicable for Option 2. The following requirements should be met for this Option:

T01 Thermal Performance (Precondition)

T06 Thermal Comfort Monitoring (Optimization)

This WELL feature mandates projects to install sensors in their buildings to monitor thermal comfort parameters. Sensors provide feedback to building managers and users so they can take appropriate actions. You can get 1 point for continuously monitoring the thermal environment and meeting the following requirements. 

T06 Thermal Comfort Monitoring (Optimization)

T07 Humidity Control (Optimization)

The WELL feature requires projects to use sensors to monitor building thermal comfort, empowering managers and users to make adjustments as needed. It also demands that projects maintain indoor temperatures that ensure comfort for the majority.

To get 1 point for this feature, projects meeting the T06 feature and maintaining humidity between 30% and 60% in regularly occupied areas can fulfill Option 3 requirements through continuous monitoring verified by sensor data.

WELL and LEED crosswalks

Synergies exist between LEED and WELL certification frameworks, offering the possibility of earning points for both certifications. Crosswalks identify features that align with strategies across multiple rating systems, facilitating the pursuit of dual certification with greater ease and efficiency.

For example, for compliance with features A08.1 and A08.2, you can get 2 points for WELL v2 (1 for each Option). This WELL feature may be used for LEED compliance. For LEED compliance, projects using LEED v4.1 version must achieve both A08.1 and A08.2., which counts as 1 of 3 LEED strategies (3 strategies earn 1 point). Projects using LEED v4 version must achieve both A08.1 and A08.2. Counts for Option 2 strategy D.

The WELL website offers a clear guide to LEED and WELL crosswalks. Additionally, if you're interested in exploring IAQ monitoring for LEED v5, you can check out our LEED v5 Incentivizing Continuous Indoor Air Quality Monitoring article.

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