What is WELL? An interview with expert Timo van Vliet

Real estate influences its users’ health tremendously. If anyone knows, it is Timo van Vliet. He’s a WELL-expert (“Accredited Professional”), WELL-inspirator and technical consultant at M3E. Two-and-a-half years ago Timo became an Accredited Professional. He registered the Netherlands’ first WELL-accredited building. Since a few months, he’s a member of the WELL Faculty. Its members play an important role in spreading knowledge by speaking at seminars and instructing the right people.

But what is the WELL Building Standard? “At the time it was a new, American standard to improve the health of people in buildings.” Van Vliet explains. “We achieve this by inspecting characteristics like a building’s air quality, its lighting, and its comfort. This way WELL provides a building with better circumstances. WELL focuses on a building’s users instead of the building itself. Technical, architectural and organizational interventions improve the health of a building’s users. And this health is guaranteed by continuously monitoring it through data collection. Compared to other real estate certificates, the WELL Building Standard is quite new. That does not stop it from gaining traction. On the contrary, there are more Accredited Professionals every day!

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Sustainability is getting more and more attention. There is more attention to the health of real estate users. Portfolios that do not take this into consideration score lower with investors. Van Vliet gets more work out of this. So much more work, that he cannot do it by himself anymore. It provides challenges: “The material is quite dense, and there are not many people with experience. So, I organized coaching sessions. Unfortunately, people with a technical background are skeptical. They see the whole thing as vague, but they are the ones who have to work with it.”

The trainees are not the only ones who have trouble with the concept. The market itself is stuck in its ways: “I’ll hear: ‘This is the way we have always done it, and now some young guy comes along to tell us how it is done.’ That is a challenge. I am glad there is awareness that things need to change. Globally, the Netherlands is the fifth in WELL-registered buildings in absolute numbers, behind mammoths like the US and China. That is an enormous achievement.”

In the past year, WELL launched its second version. Its focus shifted to collecting and monitoring data. Because of this, the certificate can also be used to make comparisons to other buildings. The only thing WELL cannot do is cause people to live healthily at home. “We try our best to make the building as healthy as possible, but our reach does not extend behind people’s front doors. So, we focus on awareness as the next logical step.” At hello energy, we agree wholeheartedly. Let’s get aware and healthy!

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