Lighting and controls put WELL concepts to work (MAGAZINE)

May 29, 2018
Lutron's Eric Lind sheds light on the ways in which lighting designers and specifiers can leverage solid-state lighting and controls to achieve WELL Building objectives.

A growing list of studies is beginning to support what neuroscientists and psychologists have theorized for decades — sustainable, green-building design can have a positive effect on productivity, health, and cognitive function. Thermal conditions and lighting are often specifically identified as essential aspects of creating a more desirable, employee-centric workplace environment.


It’s not surprising, then, that specifying an appropriate lighting and control solution can make significant contributions to achieving certification within the WELL Building rating system from the International WELL Building Institute. The WELL rating system was established to “advance buildings that help people work, live, perform, and feel their best” ( It reflects performance-based measures of the impact of the built environment on human health and provides a model for design and construction that integrates wellness features into the built environment.

There are seven concept areas that make up the structure of WELL certification. Light is one — the others being air, water, nourishment, fitness, comfort, and mind. Within each feature are basic preconditions that must be met to achieve WELL compliance (silver certification), and additional optimization features that help achieve higher levels of WELL certification (gold and platinum).

Specifying an appropriate lighting and control solution, especially one that expands beyond electric light to include automated, motorized shading control, can help your projects achieve 11% of the certification requirements required for both tenant improvement projects and new construction — meeting 4 of the possible 41 preconditions, and 7 of the possible 59 optimizations.

What should you keep in mind when you’re thinking about specifying control solutions that support the WELL Light concept? Focus on the four preconditions: visual lighting design, circadian lighting design, electrical light glare control, and solar glare control.

Visual lighting design defines required average light levels of 215 lx (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 (by setting maximum lighting output to the appropriate illuminance level) helps designers meet the contrast ratios. Independently controlled zones of light no larger than 500 ft2 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.

Circadian lighting design that mimics natural daylight is generating a great deal of attention for its ability to improve employee engagement, a recognition that circadian lighting may help improve or at least not disrupt sleep cycles, and its overall influence on a variety of physiological conditions. Lighting must meet appropriate melanopic light intensity in work areas by complying with at least one of these two conditions:

• 200 equivalent melanopic lux (EML) is present at 75% or more of workstations, at 4 ft above the finished floor, between the hours of 9:00 AM and 1:00 PM 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 EML or greater.

An automated, motorized shading solution is the best method for achieving the solar glare control feature, which cannot be met with the implementation of static glare inhibitors. And, the fourth precondition, daylight modeling, is also most effectively met with the use of automated shades and daylight-responsive lighting control.

The ASID Headquarters in Washington, DC was the world’s first space to achieve both WELL Platinum certification and LEED Platinum certification. Not only are all these strategies employed throughout the space, the lighting design by Benya Burnett Consultancy effectively supports the complementary but distinct requirements of both WELL and LEED certifications — an important model for truly sustainable design. The result is a lighting design for all seasons, all conditions, and everyone in the space. This is a model we can emulate as we look to understand how lighting and lighting control can best serve the people in a space.

As we strive to manufacture and specify products that are good for society, the environment, and the economy, the WELL Building standard, along with other evolving green building standards, will continue to help guide product research and development and redefine how we think about value in our buildings.