Companies enroll in WELL certification for COVID-19 prep

Catalyst Partners, Herman Miller prepare facilities to fight spread of virus.
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Catalyst Partners is seeking verification that its Second Street NW office building meets health and safety standards set by the International Well Being Institute. Courtesy Catalyst Partners

Catalyst Partners recently enrolled its office building in the WELL Health-Safety Rating for Facilities Operations and Management.

The company’s office building at 502 Second St. NW in Grand Rapids, which earned LEED Double Platinum in January, is now contending to achieve the WELL certification, which will show its commitment to health and safety in a post-COVID-19 world.

The WELL Health-Safety Rating is an evidence-based, third-party-verified rating for all new and existing building and space types focused on operational policies, maintenance protocols and emergency plans to help organizations prepare their spaces for re-entry in a post-COVID-19 environment.

The WELL Health-Safety Rating was created by the International Well Being Institute and is informed by guidance on the spread of COVID-19 and other respiratory diseases developed by the World Health Organization, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, global disease control and prevention centers and emergency management agencies, recognized standard-making associations such as ASTM International and ASHRAE, and leading academic and research institutions.

“This new rating aims to meet the urgent need to deliver high health and safety standards in all of the spaces we occupy,” said IWBI President Rachel Gutter. “While longer-term design strategies are important in reducing the risks of infectious disease spread, this rating focuses on strategies that can be implemented immediately to address acute threats, using our buildings and spaces as a first line of defense in a post-COVID-19 world.”

IWBI leveraged insights from its task force on COVID-19, established at the outset of the pandemic to help business and building leaders integrate actionable insights and proven strategies in the fight against COVID-19 and other respiratory infections.

Andrea Terrien, director of operations at Catalyst Partners, said the WELL standards will ensure the company meets safety requirements like indoor air and water quality testing and treatment, effective building ventilation, cleaning and sanitization, emergency preparedness procedures, plans for a healthy reentry after a pandemic, access to health benefits, sick leave, mental health services and other preventive safety procedures.

“We chose to pursue the WELL Health-Safety Rating as well as WELL certification for our building because we want to do the best we can to take care of our employees’ health and well-being,” Terrien said. “Especially during this COVID-19 crisis, we know that some employees are concerned about returning to work in an office environment.”

As a sustainability and restorative design firm, Catalyst Partners also offers consultation for WELL certification, WELL Health-Safety Rating, and other sustainability-related certifications like LEED and Living Building Challenge.

“We do what we believe is important for others to do, as well, and we live out our values in the way that we do business,” Terrien said. “We want to help other organizations achieve these standards, as well, so that they can welcome their employees back to a healthy and safe workplace.”

According to a list of companies published by IWBI, Herman Miller Group is the only other West Michigan company besides Catalyst Partners enrolled in the program. The list was not updated at press time. Over 100 organizations and real estate portfolios worldwide are already enrolled.

Emily M. Dunn, workplace knowledge consultant at Herman Miller, said the company was enrolled in the WELL portfolio program prior to engaging with the WELL Health-Safety Rating.

“We as an organization have always focused on the employee experience, and the health and well-being of our occupants is a really important component of that, so our alignment with IWBI with the portfolio program naturally flowed well when they rolled out the Health-Safety Rating.”

The WELL Health-Safety Rating is comprehensive but not a large hurdle to achieve, Dunn said. The program focuses on operations and policies like hand washing, HVAC, emergency preparedness, health care benefits and ensuring employees can take sick leave when necessary as not to endanger co-workers.

For a company like Herman Miller, the verification process confirms companies are doing what they need to do to keep employees and customers safe.

“We’re going to do our best based on the knowledge we have, but it’s always great to have an unbiased third party to verify that,” Dunn said. “And that’s something we’d be proud to share with our customers and employees.”

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