I’ve been the only commercial real estate appraiser in NYC with a LEED-AP BD+C designation for a long time. Taking that course was one of my biggest professional challenges. The language easily understood by architects, engineers and even interior designers, was foreign and difficult for me.

LEED is challenging, as it should be to be meaningful. But that may be one of the reasons there has been a proliferation of new and different, some much more specific, designations such as Green Globes and Net Zero Energy Building. Like all things, certifications have evolved.

The newest is WELL from the International WELL Building Institute. Their standard is simple: prioritize health and well-being in a building and the people who use it. Simple, but powerful and, in my professional opinion, the one to watch.

All of us in the profession have, at some point, either heard of or experienced, sick building syndrome. It’s usually an unspecific malaise (but most often about poor air quality and ventilation), where being in a building causes health problems or discomfort that can include headache, fatigue, nausea and breathing issues.

But meeting The WELL Building Standard ™ provides proof that your facility is the exact opposite: healthy, such that it contributes to users’ well-being and productivity.

The WELL certification can be sought for a building, a building interior or core and shell. The website (wellcertified.com) provides information on how it aligns with other certification systems such as LEED and what it takes to become a WELL AP.

In our increasingly tempeh-is-the-new-tofu, chia seed, kale and black lentil world, this designation can be gold (pardon the pun) for marketing your property. Certainly it positions your company and property as being a leader in healthy spaces.

Imagine you are sending your child to school and the reassurance you would feel knowing the facility was WELL certified. Or that a new restaurant. Or a hospital, lab or research facility. Or residential building. In fact, less than a week ago, New York City’s first WELL-Certified, luxury multifamily building was announced in the Flatiron District – 21W20, a development of Gale International.

Remember, as the WELL Certification becomes more prevalent and recognized and the correlation between health and wealth becomes clearer, you heard it here first. Namaste.

# # #

Green projects are, pardon the pun, as healthy as ever in the marketplace. No longer a trend, they’ve reached their final destination as a key component of new commercial construction, retrofits and institutional projects.

What may be on the wane – unless it isn’t – is not green, but certifications, at least in the U.S. which seems to be lagging behind certification growth in the rest of the world.

An interesting market shift appeared in a recent report from Dodge Data & Analytics which can be summarized as more projects in the U.S. will be green, but less of them will be seeking certification. According to Dodge, the figure for certification will be fewer than 15%, a decrease from 41% in 2015 – a rather stunning decline. As the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) was a partner in the Dodge “World Green Buildings Trends Report”, we assume the aforementioned statistic refers to LEED certifications only.

LEED standards have become tighter. As the USGBC said about v4, “…credits and prerequisites were designed to raise the bar.” There’s been conjecture about whether the design and construction industries would and could meet new credit requirements; that there is not enough customization for climate zones and markets, i.e., what works for a suburban office park in Arizona is not going to be the same as what works on a zero lot building in New York City; and that with the work and time entailed, pursuing certifications may not be profitable based on a cost benefit analysis.
While LEED is still the U.S. and global standard, there’s also been a groundswell in other certification models.

EnergyStar, from the U.S. EPA and U.S. DOE, is well known. Green Globes, which gives environmental credits, has no prerequisites and is less stringent than LEED, is an alternative developed by the Green Building Initiative. But, have you heard of the Living Building Challenge, NZEB (Net Zero Energy Building), Passive Home Institute, SITES (sustainable landscapes) or the WELL Building Standard (focused on health and well-being)?

Two things seem perfectly clear. For one, green buildings themselves are not on the wane as they have shown to decrease energy costs; reduce operating costs; be the favored choice of tenants; and increase property value.

Secondly, the certification field is growing in choice and specialization. Generally, competition tends to spur greater effort, improved efficiencies and innovation. Specifically, the greater the green options, the better the opportunity to determine whether and how your project will be green certified based on location, size, budget, goals, new construction or retrofit and type of property.

Thus, to answer our own question: green certifications aren’t necessarily on the wane. They’re simply evolving.

# # #