February 15, 2021

Air Quality Monitoring for WELL Certification

Green Buildings

We’ve already written about the air quality monitoring requirements for LEED certification in our previous blog post:

Air Quality Monitoring for LEED Green Building Certification

In this blog post, we will focus on how you should measure and control indoor air quality to meet the WELL Building Standard.

Photo by Shridhar Gupta

First, let’s start with the differences between LEED and WELL building certifications. Both standards have different goals but can complement each other.

What are the LEED and WELL standards?

The LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design®) certification is a green building certification developed by the US Green Building Council. It sets benchmarks for the design, construction, and maintenance of buildings that are more resource and energy-efficient.

The WELL Building Standard is a certification introduced in 2014 by the International WELL Building Institute. Unlike LEED which focuses on environmental sustainability, the WELL focuses on the occupants’ health and wellness. There are Bronze, Silver, Gold, and Platinum rates.

Below you can see the features assessed within these systems:

The LEED and WELL rating categories

Air Quality Monitoring for the WELL Building Standard

As said before, the WELL Standard evaluates more than a hundred features of building environments that impact occupants’ health and wellbeing. Features, in turn, are divided into two groups:

  • Preconditions – obligatory features for baseline certification;
  • Optimizations – optional enhancements.

110 points is the maximum a project can get where 40 points is equal to Bronze certification, 50 points – Silver, 60 – Gold, and 80 points is the Platinum level.

Air is evaluated based on these features:

  • Fundamental Air Quality (P);
  • Smoke-free environment (P);
  • Ventilation Effectiveness (P);
  • Construction Pollution Management (P);
  • Enhanced Air Quality (O, 4 points);
  • Enhanced Ventilation (O, 3 points);
  • Operable Windows (O, 2 points);
  • Air Quality Monitoring and Awareness (O, 2 points);
  • Pollution Infiltration Management (O, 1 point);
  • Combustion Minimization (O, 1 point);
  • Source Separation (O, 1 point);
  • Air Filtration (O, 1 point);
  • Active VOC control (O, 1 point);
  • Microbe and Mold Control (O, 2 points).

Most of these features are tested on-site by a WELL Performance Testing Agent after reviewing the documents proving that certain WELL features are met.

Performance test requirements for the WELL Air Quality features

The Performance Testing Agent should conduct sampling under regular conditions in the areas where occupants would usually be located. More detailed guidelines for Performance Testing can be found here.

Below you can find minimum requirements for various air pollutant concentrations. Those apply to all spaces except commercial kitchens.

Thresholds for Particulate Matter:

PM2.5 requirements for the WELL certification

Thresholds for formaldehyde and benzene:

Formaldehyde and benzene requirements for the WELL certification

Thresholds for VOCs according to the Fundamental Air Quality feature:

VOCs requirements for the WELL certification

Thresholds for inorganic gases:

Inorganic gases requirements for the WELL certification

The radon level is less than 0.15 Bq/L [4 pCi/L].

Air Quality Monitoring and Awareness in the WELL Standard

Even if the WELL Assessor executes performance tests on-site and later you should submit yearly reports on the air quality in your building, installing air quality sensors for real-time monitoring is an effective indoor environment management tool.

Air quality is prone to constant fluctuations, be it the result of outdoor air pollution or the rise of CO2 in a crowded room.

Air quality monitoring and activities aiming to increase public awareness of indoor air quality bring two additional points to the building rating.

According to the requirements, 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

Each floor or every 325 m2 should be equipped with at least one air quality monitor.

Atmocube, the indoor environmental tracking system

For these purposes, the building owners/contractors can install Atmocube. 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 the occupants through the web application.

On top of measuring major pollutants, it also monitors light and noise levels, which addresses other concepts put forth by the WELL standard.

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Atmocube on the wall