WELL Equity Rating Targets Health Disparities
The green building movement has often been criticized for benefiting the most privileged people in society while leaving others behind. The WELL Equity Rating is trying to turn that around by leveraging building decisions and business practices to address systemic inequities.
Pitched as a roadmap to help organizations turn their equity aspirations into actions and outcomes, the rating has 41 “features,” plus innovation options. None of the features are required. Projects must score at least 21 points to achieve the rating (there aren’t multiple levels of achievement). The requirements focus on access, support, and retention for six populations the rating identifies as “the most marginalized people.” Features fall into six categories (not including the innovation category):
- User Experience and Feedback
- Responsible Hiring and Labor Practices
- Inclusive Design
- Health Benefits and Services
- Supportive Programs and Spaces
- Community Engagement
Although the rating is applied to specific spaces, many of the features require company-wide policies or programs, like improvements to hiring practices, enhanced health benefits, and responsible labor practices. There are also options for entire portfolios, with “organization-wide metrics to benchmark performance and track progress against industry peers over time,” according to the overview.
One goal of the rating is to reduce health disparities among marginalized groups—things like higher-than-average asthma rates among Black people and higher-than-average mental health diagnoses among people who identify as LGBTQ+. The social determinants of health promulgated by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services include factors relating to the built environment, healthcare access, economic stability, and the community safety net. The WELL Equity Rating attempts to address many of these factors in workplaces and communities.
But the International WELL Building Institute (IWBI) also points to other benefits, such as increased productivity, profitability, and innovation across the organization.
The rating is “applicable to various building types,” including manufacturing facilities and affordable housing, according to Angelita Scott, Ph.D., IWBI’s WELL Equity lead. Specific features help accommodate the needs of occupants in those building types, and the Innovation category allows use of WELL Building Standard features “based on the evidence they provide showing its importance to the project and/or stakeholders.”
One of the early adopters of the new rating, flooring manufacturer Shaw Industries, plans to roll it out in multiple building types after first trying it in five commercial offices in Dalton, Georgia. This phase-in plan “will allow Shaw to become more familiar with the nuances of the rating before pursuing validation of its wide range of other facilities … throughout the world,” said Kellie Ballew, Shaw’s vice president of global sustainability and innovation, in an emailed statement. These facilities will include those supporting administration, manufacturing, and distribution.
The cost for the WELL Equity Rating is set at $5,000 per space, with a 35% discount available for certain types of organizations as well as options for volume pricing.
For more information:
International WELL Building Institute
Published January 9, 2023 Permalink Citation
Melton, P. (2022, December 21). WELL Equity Rating Targets Health Disparities. Retrieved from https://www.buildinggreen.com/newsbrief/well-equity-rating-targets-health-disparities
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