Chapter Corner

Working Toward WELL

Posted in: Features, May/June 2018

Designed to exemplify the Workplace for the Future, the Washington, DC-based headquarters of the Amercian Society of Interior Designers (ASID) is the first space in the world to achieve Platinum Level Certification for both the WELL v1 Building Standard (WELL) and Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED), under the LEED ID+C rating system v3.

Why the focus on WELL?

IWELL.jpgnvestments that focus on wellness and sustainability are proving to have exponential results in terms of employee satisfaction and producitivty. The WELL Building Standard is a rating system that provides a model for space design and construction that integrates performance-based systems to positively impact the built environment. Lighting and lighting control can make essential contributions toward WELL certification.

In the ASID offices, every light is controlled, and solar-adaptive shading software silently and seamlessly adjusts the shades over the course of the day, minimizing glare, reducing heat gain, and enhancing comfort throughout the space. The system also provides clear visibility to building data. With the right software
and graphic user interface the facilities team can easily make adjustments and adapt system settings to ensure the space remains dynamic and responsive to occupant needs and changing space requirements. This is one example of how building systems can help save energy, simplify operations, and create the right environment over the life of the space.
 
The WELL Building Standard serves as a guideline for design focused on wellness, comfort, and productivity. It can also help attract and retain top talent in an increasingly competitive environment. Beyond a simple ROI, the WELL Building Standard offers a value proposition that includes:
 
  • Improved environment for employees and clients
  • Thought leadership
  • Increased productivity
  • Improved employee satisfaction and retention
Let’s consider WELL certification in reference to one specific project – the ASID headquarters in Washington, DC – to examine how lighting and shading solutions can be used to meet WELL certification requirements.
 
Seven WELL Concepts
 
WELL certification starts with seven concepts that influence human behaviors and define a wellness-focused environment: Air, Water, Nourishment, Light, Fitness, Comfort, and Mind. Under these concepts there are "features" or provisions, which have requirements to be met. Some features are mandatory "preconditions." Others are optional "optimizations."
 
Lighting Design Can Contribute to Essential Light Concept Features
 
The Light concept area provides illumination guidelines to minimize disruption to the human body's circadian system, enhance productivity, and provide visual acuity. The WELL Building Standard promotes lighting and shading solutions that increase alertness, enhance the overall occupant experience, and even promote healthy sleep.
 
For the ASID project, lighting designers James Benya and Deborah Burnett of Benya Burnett Consultancy, created a lightingdesign to ensure circadian-optimized lighting and daylighting, critical luminaire placement, and annual lighting schedules and sequences. It's important to note that ASID was committed to achieving platinum level in both WELL and LEED certifications, and the lighting and shading solutions effectively support both certifications. 
 
Ultimately, the integrated lighting and shading solution contributed toward points in five WELL concept areas and helped achieve 10 of the 86 (12 percent) features required to achieve WELL Platinum. The innovative lighting design contributed to the achievement of all lighting features in the WELL Light concept, with the exception of daylight fenestration. By including automated shades and the selected shade fabric, ASID was able to meet mandatory preconditions and optional optimizations in 4 additional WELL concept areas: Air, Comfort, Mind, and Innovation.
 
Where Lighting and Shading Solutions Can Have the Most Influence

Visual Lighting Design, Feature #53

This defines required average light levels of 215 lux/20 fc on the horizontal plane and requires the appropriate brightness and contrast ratios on different surfaces within spaces to avoid dark spots or excessively bright spots in a room. Tunable lighting (setting maximum lighting output to the appropriate illuminance level) helps designers meet the contrast ratios. Independently controlled zones of light no larger than 500 square feet are also required. Digitally addressable ballasts and drivers can accommodate these zoning requirements without the need for complex wiring and make post-installation adjustments easier.

A lighting design can meet required lux with fixtures alone, but this strategy can result in very bright light, which is acceptable earlier in the day but considerably less desirable in the late afternoon when it can negatively affect sleep patterns. Designing an integrated light management system with usable daylight enables the shades to help regulate daylight, provide the required foot-candles, and prevent glare, while the drivers/ballasts automatically dim to help save energy.


Tunable white fixtures and controls allow lighting to be adjusted automatically and unobtrusively over the course of the day. For example, short wavelengths of light (the violet/blue end of the visual spectrum) can be included earlier, then scaled back in the afternoon and evening to prevent sleep disruption. While WELL certification does not focus on energy efficiency, energy savings is a consideration in most commercial buildings. Lighting control solutions that integrate with daylight and occupancy sensors, or daylight responsive shading, can play a significant part in tuning the light for the right environment, significantly reducing energy use.

Circadian Lighting Design, Feature #54
 
This aspect of WELL certification is designed to provide lighting conditions that reinforce natural patterns of the human circadian cycle with appropriate melanopic light intensity in work areas. At least one of the following requirements must be met:
 
  • 200 equivalent melanopic lux (EML)/18.6 fc is present at 75% or more of workstations, at 4 ft. above the finished floor, between the hours of 9:00 a.m. and 1:00 p.m. for every day of the year.
  • For all workstations, electric light provides maintained illuminance on the vertical plane facing forward (to simulate the view of the occupant) of 150 equivalent melanopic lux or greater.
EML is calculated by measuring the visual lux and multiplying it by a ratio that correlates to the impact the light has on the body’s sleep/wake cycle. Shorter wavelength light (blue) has a stronger biological response than longer wavelength light (yellow or red). The ratio of shorter wavelength light will be higher due to the impact on the body’s circadian system. The ratio for a 6500k fluorescent light might be 1.02 because it has a lot of stimulating blue light while the ratio for a 2,950k fluorescent light may be .43 because its spectral power distribution contains lower amounts of stimulating blue light.
 
The blue light that helps meet EML during the day can have a negative impact on sleep at night. This is one motivator for the enhanced use of color tuning fixtures – they can provide the biologically active light during the day at lower power consumption and adjust to less biologically active light in the evening and night.
 
Precondition Feature #56: Solar Glare Control and Optimization Feature #60, Automated Shading and Dimming Controls
 
Automated, solar-adaptive window shading systems work in conjunction with smart lighting control solutions to help to reflect harsh, direct sunlight away from occupants while still preserving highly-desirable view.
 
Daylight Modeling, Feature #62

In the ASID Headquarters, automated shades were selected to meet the daylight odeling requirements. Manual shades could have been used in this case, but in addition to contributing to this Well Feature, automated shading helped meet essential LEED Daylight credits.
 
Additional Results

Beyond achieving the metrics required for WELL certification, ASID engaged in extensive pre- and postoccupancy research to understand and evaluate the impact of the sustainable workplace design on productivity and employee satisfaction.
 
Energy reduction, which can be directly attributed to the lighting control solution, amounts to an annual savings of $7,653.60. Strategies including daylighting, tuning, occupancy sensors, and personal control reduced lighting energy use by more than 78 percent compared to lights at full on.
 
Specific to the lighting environment, work surfaces are 63% brighter and employees report vast improvements in environmental condition satisfaction in the areas of physical comfort, light, and thermal comfort compared to their original offices. Employee collaboration has increased by 9 percent, employee absenteeism has seen a 19 percent improvement, and 25 percent of employees attribute circadian lighting at the new office for their enhanced sleep quality. A comprehensive analysis and report is available at ASID.org.
 
Smart, forward-thinking solutions that contribute to WELL certification also generally make positive contributions to society, the environment, and the economy.
 
Michael Jouaneh is manager of sustainability and energy standards for Lutron, the world leader in light control solutions. He is a frequent presenter at industry events such as Lightfair International and Greenbuild, and is active in the development of the top energy and green building codes/standards for the U.S. He is also the author of several published articles, whitepapers, and case studies on high-performance, energy-efficient green buildings.