Craig DiLouie, LC, CLCP recently had the opportunity to interview Michael Jouaneh, CEM, LEED AP, WELL Faculty, Manager—Sustainability and Energy Standards, Lutron Electronics Co., Inc. on the topic of how lighting and controls fit into the WELL Building Standard. This interview informed an article for tED Magazine, the official publication of the NAED. Transcript follows, with the responses based on Version 1 of the standard.
DiLouie: What is the WELL Building Standard and how would you describe lighting’s role in it?
Jouaneh: The WELL Building Standard is a performance-based building rating system that focuses exclusively on human health and wellness. In describing their standard, the International WELL Building Institute says it explores how design, operations and behavior can be optimized to advance human health and well-being.
WELL Certified spaces may help create a built environment that improves the nutrition, fitness, mood, sleep patterns, and performance of their occupants. Light is one of the main WELL concepts, and as such lighting plays an important role in WELL certification.
DiLouie: If WELL were adopted by all buildings, what would be the result for illumination and occupants?
Jouaneh: Occupants would experience a higher quality lighting environment. WELL lighting features aim to improve visual acuity, access to daylight and views, glare reduction, sleep quality, and productivity.
DiLouie: Where is WELL being adopted now? How much traction is it getting?
Jouaneh: As of March, according to WellCertified.com, there are 1,555 projects (registered and certified) encompassing over 314 million square feet applying WELL across 48 countries.
DiLouie: Does WELL follow lighting design practices, extend them, or contradict them?
Jouaneh: I am not a lighting designer, but I believe the WELL standard complements and extends standard lighting design practices. There are WELL features for better visual lighting design which require minimum illuminance levels and limited brightness contrast ratios in main spaces and ancillary spaces, complementing standard design practices. A feature intended to support circadian health extends a newer lighting design practice by requiring minimum Equivalent Melonopic Lux (EML) thresholds to reduce disruption to human circadian rhythms.
For those who lament the prescriptive nature of WELL, the standard does allow for alternative compliance paths if the designer is able to prove conformance to the intent, even if the prescriptive requirement is not met.
DiLouie: How practical or simple is it to implement WELL’s lighting provisions?
Jouaneh: Some light-related features are very easy to implement. Color quality (feature 58) simply requires use of sources that provide CRI of 80 or higher and the feature for low-glare workstation design (feature 57) just requires monitors to be oriented away from a window. Other features can be more challenging to implement such as right to light (feature 61), which requires most workstations and spaces to be close to windows.
Some light-related solutions have the advantage of being able to help achieve multiple WELL features. For example, using automated window shades helps meet several WELL features such as solar glare control (feature 56), automated shading and dimming (feature 60), right to light (feature 61), and daylight modeling (feature 62).
DiLouie: How well does WELL work with LEED, which might be described as a cousin of the standard?
Jouaneh: WELL and LEED are complementary in many ways. LEED is more about the planet while WELL is more about the people. There is approximately a 15 percent overlap between the two building rating systems.
DiLouie: How well does WELL work with prevailing commercial building energy codes and standards such as 90.1, IECC, and Title 24?
Jouaneh: With respect to lighting, WELL is not focused on energy, but rather on how lighting affects the well-being of people. In general, the WELL standard does not detract from meeting the lighting requirements in building energy codes. In fact, there are some synergies with WELL and energy codes. In particular, part 2 of WELL feature 60 (automated shading and dimming controls), requires lighting to be automatically shut off when spaces are vacant, and dimmed in the presence of daylight. The latest energy codes basically require this as well.
DiLouie: Some lighting designers have stated WELL addresses and promotes quality lighting. What is your take?
Jouaneh: There are going to be a lot of opinions on this. I believe that WELL does a lot to move the ball forward toward better quality lighting (more effective daylight and better-quality electric light) based on much of what I mention in previous answers.
DiLouie: What are disadvantages or shortcomings of the lighting provisions in the current version of WELL?
Jouaneh: While WELL is a fairly comprehensive standard, there are advancements in lighting provisions that could make it even more robust. There are always opportunities for growth in maximizing access to daylight, providing controls with a seamless user experience, and increased personalization for occupants.
DiLouie: What approach should a distributor take with a client that is adopting WELL but is reluctant to implement the lighting provisions? What provisions in WELL are the easiest and which are the hardest? Which are most influenced by design and which by product?
Jouaneh: It can seem daunting and complicated to achieve all the light-related provisions of WELL but most of them can be achieved by combining appropriate light fixtures with a lighting control system that can tune and adjust both illuminance and color temperature levels (intensity and color temperature) of electric lighting plus control solar glare and daylight with automated window shades. Manufacturers can also provide resources to help navigate WELL with respect to their product solutions.
To make it easier to evaluate the ability to meet each light feature, I’ve given each feature a rating according to the key below:
WELL v1 Light Features
KEY: E = Easy to achieve, M = Medium to achieve,
H = Hard to achieve, P = Influenced by product
D = Influenced by design
53: Visual Lighting Design (M,P)
54: Circadian Lighting Design (M,P)
55: Electric Light Glare Control (E,P)
56: Solar Glare Control (M,P)
57: Low-Glare Workstation Design (E,D)
58: Color Quality (E,P)
59: Surface Design (E,D)
60: Automated Shading and Dimming Controls (M,P)
61: Right to Light (H,D)
62: Daylight Modeling (H,D)
63: Daylight Fenestration (H,D)
DiLouie: If you could tell the entire electrical industry just one thing about the lighting provisions in the WELL Building Standard, what would it be?
Jouaneh: Electric and daylight control can contribute to achieving the light features of the WELL standard with strategies such as:
• Automated window shading
• White color tuning
• Circadian lighting
• Glare control