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A More Efficient Process for Achieving both LEED and WELL

The new, more streamlined process allows teams to use LEED v4 or v4.1 credit documentation to earn WELL v2 features and vice versa. Users will only need to submit proof once.
Paula Melton
April 17, 2023

How do you like reinventing the wheel?

In the green building world, there are dozens of strategies and approaches that have to be figured out project by project, team by team, over and over again. 

Sometimes this makes sense: every building is different.

Sometimes it doesn’t.

The promise of streamlining

In the past, getting dual LEED and WELL certification could be painfully time consuming. Even though LEED and WELL have many fundamentals in common, and despite the fact that Green Business Certification Inc. (GBCI) has always done the reviews for both LEED and WELL, many project teams have faced confusion, uncertainty, and at times contradictory guidance. You probably know a heroic colleague who’s spent hours wrestling together their own LEED and WELL “crosswalk.” (These are wonky documents showing detailed relationships between rating systems, codes, etc.)

LEEDuser has even done two webinars on this topic, led by one of our own heroic colleagues, WSP’s Mohammad Abbasi: “Leveraging LEED Design Strategies for WELL” and a sequel, “Leveraging LEED Design Strategies for WELL: Thermal Comfort, Light, Water and Sound.”

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But the two organizations in charge of LEED and WELL—the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) and the International Well Building Institute (IWBI), respectively—have announced official new crosswalks comparing WELL v2 with LEED Building Design and Construction (BD+C) or Interior Design and Construction (ID+C) under both v4 and v4.1.

Even more importantly, a new process will streamline submittals and reviews.

How the process works

These crosswalks allow many credits and features to substitute for one another in the rating systems. And the new process also means teams can submit documentation just once per credit or feature, as explained in a new LEED + WELL Streamlined Certification Process Guide.

These submittals will go through either LEED Online or WELL Online, depending on how you’re meeting the requirements. There’s a spreadsheet (one for BD+C, another for ID+C) that you have to upload to both platforms indicating which rating system’s approach you’re using to document achievement.

That choice is made credit by credit or feature by feature—so you don’t have to use the LEED path all the way through or vice versa. You get to pick which rating system’s approach you prefer for each requirement.

A few examples

Here are three ways these new crosswalks and process are going to help teams (I pulled these examples somewhat randomly from the crosswalks).

  • You can use “Pedestrian-friendly streets” from WELL v2 to achieve LEED’s Surrounding Density and Diverse Uses credit under either v4 or v4.1. This doesn’t work the other way around. Also, pedestrian-friendly streets are just one half of Part 1 of the feature Site Planning and Selection. To fully earn Part 1 of this WELL feature and receive its two points, you also must meet “Pedestrian-friendly environment,” which addresses street-level façades with a requirement for transparent glazing, biophilic design, or another attractive element from a short list of options.
  • The combination of the two prerequisites Minimum Indoor Air Quality Performance and Fundamental Commissioning and Verification (under either BD+C or ID+C for either LEED v4 or v4.1) magically translates to the WELL precondition Ensure Adequate Ventilation. This doesn’t work the other way around. The crosswalk notes that naturally ventilated projects don’t have to meet the commissioning requirement, but commissioning is a LEED prerequisite, so it’s unclear why this note is relevant—unless for a case where the team fails to meet the criteria for LEED but still achieves WELL.
  • A few things are mutually interchangeable. LEED’s Bicycle Facilities credit is equivalent to combining “Provide cycling infrastructure” and “Provide showers, lockers and changing facilities,” the two parts of the WELL feature Facilities for Active Occupants. Note that for WELL, you can get one point for siting near a cycling network and providing parking even if you do not also provide showers, lockers, and changing rooms. But if you do it that way, you won’t qualify for the LEED credit.

Good for teams, good for the movement

No doubt there will be many tricky questions that come up around these newly streamlined reviews. That happens even when you’re just pursuing a single certification. 

But as I noted when USGBC and IWBI first announced this move was coming, back in November 2022 at Greenbuild, fragmentation within the green building movement “distracts and detracts from hitting the big goals the building industry needs to be pursuing: fighting carbon emissions and endemic injustice, and making our built environment more resilient to climate change.”

This looks like a huge improvement for teams already pursuing LEED and WELL. But it could also be an incentive for more clients to go after both at the same time too. Which means we can focus on environmental and human health goals together—and all the implications for equity and justice associated with these two deeply intertwined concerns.

No word yet on whether certification costs will be discounted for dual certification … but let’s take this new crosswalk one small step at a time.

Date updated: 
Monday, April 17, 2023

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