Buildings which have robust operational policies, maintenance protocols and emergency plans will be able to be certified as safe buildings under a new rating tool to be available worldwide.

Developed by a taskforce involving almost 600 global experts in public health and building design, the WELL Health Safety rating has been launched by the International WELL Building Institute (IWBI).

The new tool is focused on building operations and maintenance.

Certification will be available where owners can demonstrate:

  • Operational policies, including protocols to guide teams in operating, maintaining and managing their space that can help in protection the health and well-being of workers and visitors
  • Maintenance protocols, including procedures to enhance the health and safety of indoor environments; and
  • Emergency plans including enhancements to plans and protocols to improve emergency response and resilience.

Ratings are available for offices, hotels, movie-theatres, sports/entertainment venues, restaurants, schools/universities, retail outlets and industrial facilities.

Those wishing to have their buildings certified will need to submit policies, protocols and strategies for third-party document review and annual verification.

The new tool is the first major outcome which has been informed IWBI’s Task Force on COVID-19 and Other Respiratory Infections, which was established in late March in response to the coronavirus and which comprises almost 600 public health experts, virologists, government officials, academics, business leaders, architects, designers, building scientists and real estate professionals.

The new tool draws upon guidance on the spread of COVID-19 and other respiratory infections developed by the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the World Health Organization (WHO), the Department of Health and Human Services pursuant to the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA), the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and leading academic and research institutions as well as core principles already established by IWBI’s WELL Building Standard.

Rachel Gutter, president of IWBI, said the importance of safe buildings should not be underestimated.

“Our buildings and the people who tend them are our first line of defence for keeping us safe and healthy,” Gutter, said, “and the current pandemic has confirmed that health is a material economic consideration of the first order.”

“These two simple truths stand at the nexus of our work to date and will, along with the hard evidence that is mounting, inform all our decisions about the critical need for better buildings, more vibrant communities and stronger organizations going forward.”

WELL chairman and CEO Rick Fedrizzi said the new rating scheme will provide confidence that safety measures have been enacted within a building or facility and that these have been mapped to scientific evidence and verified via third-party review.