Here is what hotel managers need to know: After COVID-19, few things will be the same.
Hotel guests are going to be concerned that not only are the hotels they stay in cleaned using green cleaning tools, methods, and equipment, but steps have been taken to ensure the entire property is healthy. And one way they will be able to determine this is if the property has been WELL certified.
The WELL program is relatively new. The International WELL Building Institute, as it is officially known, is about six years old. It was started by many of the same people that launched the LEED Certification program. As a result, many people believe WELL and LEED are relatively similar. They are not.
LEED is Voluntary Program
The U.S. Green Building Council LEED program started in the early 1990s. It is a voluntary program that ranks buildings according to four levels of sustainability: Certified, Silver, Gold, and Platinum.
Essentially, it is designed to determine how sustainable a facility is based on items such as the following:
- The choice of site and the environmental impact of the construction project;
- How efficiently the facility uses water, fuel, and energy;
- Materials used to construct the facility (sustainable sources are necessary); and
- Overall indoor environmental quality, such as the use of green cleaning solutions.
Hotel properties that are LEED-certified have found it has several benefits, among them:
- Many corporate clients want their staff to stay only in LEED-certified facilities, so it is a marketing tool.
- These buildings tend to use water, fuel, and energy more efficiently, and generate less waste, helping to reduce operating costs.
- Properties may be able to take advantage of tax credits or rebates due to the construction and materials used in the property.
The LEED program is focused on the ways a property is built and operated, primarily to enhance sustainability.
WELL Focused Health, Well-being
The WELL program, on the other hand, is much more focused on the health and well-being of the people working, living, or learning in those facilities.
For instance, there is nothing in the LEED certification program that mentions—of all things—vending machines. In the WELL program, this is highlighted. To be WELL certified, chips, candy bars, processed bakery products, as well as many types of soft drinks, are not to be stocked. Instead, the machines should have healthier offerings such as apples, carrots, grab-and-go foods made of organic materials, and juices.
This is part of the WELL program’s “nourishment” category. Among the other categories are the following:
Air quality. A WELL certified building is tested before the property opens and again 10 months later. This is to determine that the number of volatile organic compounds used in construction materials, furniture, and finishings meet specific guidelines at opening of the property and are further reduced over the 10 months.
Water. WELL wants to ensure that water used in the property has been filtered, is not hard, and does not contain “suspended solids,” such as chlorine, fluoride, or dissolved materials.
Light. The WELL program wants the light to complement our “circadian systems.” This refers to our internal clocks. This is accomplished, for example, by testing lighting systems at different times of the day to ensure they provide adequate light levels.
Fitness. A hotel property seeking WELL certification needs to provide fitness areas, bike and running areas, possibly even yoga classes for both guests and hotel employees.
Comfort. A WELL certified building should not have noise issues; be too humid or too dry inside; provide fans in the summer months if requested, and possibly include standing desks or have them available should a guest request one.
Mind. For a hotel property, this requirement may be met simply by ensuring all properties have readily available, high-speed internet access at no charge.
Programs Share Similarities
While there are many differences between the two programs, as a LEED Accredited Professional, I can verify there are also similarities that both share. One is to work with a WELL accredited professional or someone that understands the program thoroughly. The process is involved. However, someone familiar with it can make the journey much more manageable.
Further, because so much of the program is focused on the day-to-day operations of the property, an astute janitorial distributor can prove invaluable, especially those distributors with access to online technologies or dashboards. These technologies can compare thousands of different cleaning products as to benefits and features.
As an example, some green certification programs certify cleaning solutions because they have no ozone-depleting VOCs (volatile organic compounds). However, in the WELL program, we would want to select cleaning solutions that focus not as much on the atmosphere but the air housekeepers, staff, and hotel guests inhale. There are specific certification programs that certify these products, and the technology-based distributor can help identify them.
We should also cite one more similarity. We mentioned earlier that LEED-certified properties proudly use their certification as a marketing tool. In a post COVID-19 world, we can expect WELL certified hotels to proudly do the same.
Michael Wilson is a LEED Accredited Professional and Vice President of Marketing and Packaging for AFFLINK, a global leader in supply chain optimization, packaging, and developers of ELEVATE, providing clients with innovative procurement solutions to drive efficiencies. He can be reached through his company website at www.AFFLINK.com.