A building well lit and well controlled is WELL certified (MAGAZINE)

Michael Jouaneh and Shaun Taylor describe how to leverage lighting controls to support certification to the WELL Building Standard.

Michael Jouaneh and Shaun Taylor describe how to leverage lighting controls to support certification to the WELL Building Standard.
Michael Jouaneh and Shaun Taylor describe how to leverage lighting controls to support certification to the WELL Building Standard.

MICHAEL JOUANEH and SHAUN TAYLOR describe how to leverage lighting controls to support WELL building certification and invest in the most valuable commercial asset - people.

By now, the 3/30/300 story is probably familiar to you. As a general rule, organizations spend approximately $3 per square foot per year for energy, $30 for rent, and $300 for personnel. Since people are your most valuable asset, improving their overall experience delivers the greatest return on investment (ROI). Furthermore, investments that focus on wellness and sustainability are proving to have exponential results in terms of employee satisfaction and productivity. The WELL Building Standard, administered by the International Well Building Institute, provides a model for space design and construction that integrates performance-based systems to positively impact the built environment (https://wellcertified.com). Lighting and lighting control are an essential piece of this proverbial puzzle.

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Many organizations that were early supporters of Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification are also turning their attention to the WELL standard as a guideline for design focused on wellness, comfort, and productivity. WELL Building Certification can also help to address another pressing need - the ability to 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

The Washington, DC-based headquarters of the American 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 v4. ASID leadership, along with architectural firm Perkins+Will, lighting designers Benya Burnett Consultants, and electrical engineers GHT Limited, were committed to making the new ASID headquarters a showcase for progressive design, and prioritized the goal of achieving dual Platinum certifications. A centralized light and shade management system - Quantum Total Light Management System and Sivoia QS shades with Hyperion solar adaptive shading software - was essential for helping to achieve these important goals.

FIG. 1. The ASID project incorporates circadian-optimized electric lighting as well as daylighting as part of its WELL certified design. (Photo credit: Benya Burnett Consultancy/Eric Laingnal/Perkins & Will Architects.)

In this article, we use the ASID project as an example to look at the structure of the WELL Building Standard, examine the WELL features that lead to certification, and delve into the role lighting controls can play in how a building or space is configured to achieve WELL requirements.

WELL features used to evaluate building performance

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 that have requirements to be met. Some features are mandatory and are called preconditions. Others are optional, known as optimizations. There are three levels of WELL Certification: Silver, Gold, and Platinum. Silver level certification is achieved by meeting 100% of the WELL preconditions applicable to the project type in all concepts. Gold level certification is achieved by meeting all of the WELL preconditions, as well as 40% or more of the optimization features. Platinum level certification is achieved by meeting all of the WELL preconditions, as well as 80% or more of the optimization 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 systems that increase alertness, enhance the overall occupant experience, and even promote healthy sleep. In designing lighting and controls to meet WELL requirements, the lighting professional will consider standard strategy categories including activity-based light levels, color quality, daylighting, and glare control for any given space.

For the ASID project, James Benya and Deborah Burnett of Benya Burnett Consultancy created a lighting design incorporating all these strategies to ensure circadian-optimized lighting and daylighting, critical luminaire placement, and annual lighting schedules and sequences. To maximize points in both WELL and LEED programs, the Quantum system automatically adjusts shades and light to provide appropriate spectra, light intensities, and exposures throughout the year while saving as much energy as possible (Fig. 1). Because LEED and WELL certifications provide complementary, but different benefits, designing a lighting control system that effectively supports both certifications demands intricate knowledge of both the lighting control system capabilities and the certification requirements.

Preconditions and optimizations in the WELL Light concept

Fixture selection and fenestration play a role in all preconditions and most optimizations in the WELL Light concept. A smart, integrated lighting and shade control solution can specifically help achieve precondition features in Visual Lighting Design (#53), Circadian Lighting Design (#54), and Solar Glare Control (#56), and is essential for optimization features in Automated Shading and Dimming Controls (#60) and Daylight Modeling (#62; see http://standard.wellcer tified.com/light for more on Light features).

Visual Lighting Design, Feature #53, defines required average light levels of 215 lx on the horizontal plane, measured at 30 in. above the floor, as well as independently controlled zones of light no larger than 500 ft2. Also, this feature requires the appropriate brightness and contrast ratios on different surfaces among spaces (e.g., no greater than ±10× in main room than ancillary rooms) and among surfaces within a space (e.g., surface cannot exhibit 3× greater or lesser luminance than an adjacent surface) 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.

FIG. 2. Indoor sunlight exposure and views to the outdoors, managed in part by a software-programmable shade system linked into the daylight-responsive lighting controls, boost the WELL qualifications of the ASID facility. (Photo credit: Benya Burnett Consultancy/Eric Laingnal/Perkins & Will Architects.)

A lighting design can meet required lux levels 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 footcandles, and prevent glare, while the drivers/ballasts automatically dim to help save energy.

In addition, the lighting zones must be no larger than 500 ft2, or 20% of an open-office floor plan. Digitally addressable ballasts and drivers can accommodate zoning requirements without the need for complex wiring, and when the furniture or layout inevitably changes, zones can be easily adjusted from a computer with no need to rewire.

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.

With digital control, the lighting design not only complies with certification requirements, but easily facilitates integration with timeclock control. With a single button or command, all lighting zones can be turned on or off, and still deliver zone-based occupancy or daylight control.

Feature #54 addresses Circadian Lighting Design. 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:

  • 250 equivalent melanopic lux (EML) is present at 75% or more of workstations, at 4 ft above the finished floor, for at least four hours per day.


  • Ambient lights provide maintained recommended illuminance of EML greater than or equal to lux recommendation from the Illuminating Engineering Society (IES).

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 2950K fluorescent light may be 0.43 because its spectral power distribution (SPD) contains lower amounts of stimulating blue light. (For more on SPD and how it relates to human-centric lighting design, see the feature by Mark Halper.)

The Melanopic Light Intensity in Work Areas option requires at least 250 EML on the vertical plane facing forward for 75% of the workstations for at least four hours each day. If a light meter measures 275 lx and you multiply it by the ratios listed above, that yields 280.5 EML for the 6500K lamps, and only 118.25 EML for the 2950K lamps. Since the WELL Building Standard requires 250 EML, the 6500K lamps meet the requirements while the 2950K lamps do not.

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 biologically active light during the day at lower power consumption, and adjust to deliver less biologically active light in the evening and night.

The third precondition feature that can be met with light controls is Feature #56, Solar Glare Control. This feature helps to mitigate glare from the sun by blocking or reflecting harsh, direct sunlight away from space occupants. A key requirement is to provide controllable or automatic window shading, and this feature cannot be met with a static glare inhibitor such as overhangs. By using an automated shading solution, the lighting control design can also help meet optimization Feature #60, Automated Shading and Dimming Controls.

Feature #62, Daylight Modeling, supports circadian and psychological health by setting thresholds for indoor sunlight exposure (Fig. 2). Manual shades can be used to meet this WELL feature, but automated shades that respond to changing daylight conditions and integrate with daylight responsive lighting control also increase spatial daylight autonomy. Using this control strategy, you are better able to meet the requirements for LEED Daylight credits in addition to the WELL Daylight Modeling feature.

Achieving WELL and LEED Platinum certifications

The ASID project set a very high bar for sustainable, wellness-oriented, energy-efficient lighting design. The design helped to achieve all the lighting Features in the WELL Light Concept with the exception of daylight fenestration. By including automated shades that used a sheer, GreenScreen Evolve low-VOC-emitting fabric, ASID was able to use the shade fabric to help meet the mandatory preconditions for Feature #4: VOC reduction, Feature #74: Exterior Noise Intrusion (shades can help reduce the sound coming in through the windows), and Feature #88: Biophilia (shades can preserve the views to the outside, which helps provide a connection to nature for the building occupants).

Ultimately, the ASID headquarters met the stringent requirements of both WELL and LEED certifications, with the integrated lighting and shading control system contributing in three WELL concepts and four LEED categories, including almost all the energy efficiency points.

Sometimes the different certifications' performance goals might appear to be at odds - LEED is very energy focused and WELL is tailored specifically to human performance and health - but together they deliver a truly versatile, responsive space. The lighting and shades in the ASID headquarters provide automated, solar-responsive daylight and shade control, astronomic time clock, manual overrides, precise control of several types of electric light sources, compliance with the energy code, and the data needed to prove LEED and WELL certification requirements.

Benya Burnett co-principal Deborah Burnett addressed the need for the right service as well as the right product: "The manufacturer's field service team was critical on this project. We were able to program all the wellness protocols and transitions, as well as provide everyday functions like personal task light dimming. The programming automatically adjusts light intensities and durations for seasonal solar angles, changing weather conditions, available daylight, and occupancy." The result is a lighting design for all seasons, all conditions, and everyone in the space.

In the ASID offices, every light is controlled, and the solar-adaptive software silently and seamlessly adjusts the shades over the course of the day, minimizing glare, reducing heat gain, and enhancing comfort throughout the space. Adjustments can easily be made using the software's graphic user interface to ensure the space remains dynamic, and the facilities team is able to quickly make adjustments to meet changing space requirements.

The lighting, controls, and shade design in the ASID headquarters creates a dynamic "living laboratory" for the design community, offering an opportunity to engage in pre- and ongoing post-occupancy research. Achieving WELL and LEED Platinum helps to change the conversation about how to design a space that promotes both wellness and sustainability.

MICHAEL JOUANEH, CEM, LEED AP, is manager - Sustainability and Energy Standards, and SHAUN TAYLOR, LEED GA, GGP, CGP, is sales supervisor at Lutron Electronics (lutron.com).

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