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Indoor Air Quality Requirements and Credits in WELL V2, LEED V4, and RESET Air

Joe Di Noto

Liam Bates, CEO and Co-founder of Kaiterra, recently presented a webinar about the role of continuous monitoring for achieving certification in the WELL v2, LEED v4, and RESET Air building standards. Watch the full video  or read the highlights below.

Watch the video:

Air Concept in WELL v2

The WELL Air concept is the first module of ten concepts under the WELL Building Certification (WELL v2, Q4 2022) and is key to achieving certification. Features under the Air Concept can be achieved via multiple pathways, including sensor data, performance testing, on-site photographs, a letter of assurance from the engineer, and on-going maintenance reports. In this section, we will focus on the features that can be achieved and validated by sensor data or performance tests.


A01: Air Quality Precondition

The first feature in the Air Concept is A01, which sets the minimum air quality standards that must be achieved for specific key pollutants. This feature comprises five parts, including particulate matter, organic gasses, inorganic gasses, radon, and measurement. 


Under WELL, there are three options for maintaining acceptable levels of PM2.5 and PM10. Option 1 requires PM2.5 levels to be under 15 micrograms per cubic meter. This can be verified using sensor data or annual performance testing. Option 2 offers a higher threshold where the annual average outdoor PM2.5 level is above 35 micrograms per cubic meter, while option 3 evaluates IAQ by looking at a percentage decrease from outdoor levels. 


The second part of A01 concerns volatile organic compounds (VOCs). These can be measured and controlled through either periodic performance testing or continuous data from sensors installed within the space.

Inorganic Gasses 

Inorganic gasses, such as carbon monoxide and ozone, are covered in the third part of A01. Like VOCs, inorganic gasses can be managed through one-off on-site performance tests or continuous monitoring using appropriate sensors.


Radon, a naturally occurring radioactive gas, is the focus of part four of A01. To ensure low radon levels, buildings must obtain a letter of assurance from an engineer, or conduct annual radon testing.


The fifth part of A01 addresses the need for measuring these parameters at least once per year. Fortunately, if a building has continuous monitoring systems in place, conducting additional on-site visits for measurements may not be necessary.

A03: Ventilation Design

A03, another prerequisite of the WELL Air concept, is focused on ventilation design. This feature aims to ensure that buildings have high standards of ventilation in place. The various options available to comply with A03 are covered below:

Options 1-3

The first three options for achieving A03 are focused on adhering to recognized guidelines such as ASHRAE 62.1, and must be verified by a letter of assurance from an engineer.

Option 4

The fourth option for A03 compliance involves measuring CO2 levels in the building and maintaining them at 900 ppm or less. This approach is particularly suitable for buildings that utilize continuous air quality monitors. 

A05: Enhanced Air Quality Optimization

The A05 feature focuses on enhanced air quality optimization, and is far stricter than the minimum requirements. This feature offers extra points for reducing levels of particulate matter, organic gasses, and inorganic gas within a building. A maximum of four points are available for achieving this feature.

While the basic requirement for PM2.5 is 15 micrograms per cubic meter, reducing the PM2.5 levels to 10 micrograms per cubic meter or lower can earn a building two additional points for their WELL certification. Similarly, achieving improvements in organic and inorganic gas concentrations can also contribute to gaining extra points under the A05 feature.


A06: Enhanced Ventilation Design

A06 focuses on the enhanced ventilation design - or going above and beyond the minimum requirements for building ventilation. This feature offers additional points for achieving better ventilation and air quality management. One critical aspect of A06 is reducing CO2 levels using sensor data to demonstrate the effectiveness of the ventilation system.

Option 4: Ventilation Monitoring

Option 4 under A06 involves ventilation monitoring using sensor data. By meeting specific carbon dioxide thresholds in occupiable spaces, a building can earn extra points for its WELL certification. For instance, while the initial CO2 level requirement is set at 900 ppm, lowering it to 750 ppm, as evidenced by sensor data, can contribute to earning two extra points. In total, up to three points are available under A06 for buildings that successfully implement enhanced ventilation design and demonstrate the effectiveness of their air quality management initiatives.

A08: Air Quality Monitoring and Awareness Optimization

A08 in the WELL Air concept is centered around continuous monitoring and promoting air quality awareness through the use of IAQ monitors. This feature offers two additional points for WELL certification and consists of two key components:

Component 1: Installing IAQ Monitors

The first component involves deploying IAQ monitors in the building and continuously collecting IAQ data. Monitors must measure at least three of the key parameters, typically including PM2.5, carbon dioxide (CO2), and total volatile organic compounds (TVOCs). 

Component 2: Promoting Air Quality Awareness

The second component of A08 focuses on increasing air quality awareness among building occupants. To achieve this, air quality metrics must be presented on display screens or accessible through web apps or phone applications. By installing an air quality monitor with a display, such as the Sensedge, both components of A08 can be addressed simultaneously.

WELL: Air Concept Summary

The Air Concept plays a crucial role in achieving the WELL Building Standard. Meeting the IAQ-related prerequisites is a fundamental requirement for obtaining WELL certification, while a total of 18 points can be earned through the Air Concept. Using continuous monitors alone, seven of these points can be achieved across features A01, A03, A05, A06, and A08. 

The WELL Building Standard also includes a Thermal Comfort concept, where continuous monitors can help earn an additional three points. In total, this amounts to 10 points, which can significantly impact a building's certification level, bringing you from silver to gold, or nearly from gold to platinum.

Indoor Environmental Quality in LEED

Indoor Environmental Quality (IEQ) is one of the seven core categories in LEED certification. Within IEQ, there are several subcategories, including the IEQ Performance prerequisite, which accounts for up to 20 available credits. For Operations and Maintenance (O+M) projects, LEED requires an annual employee satisfaction survey and an annual air test.

These two components contribute to a combined "human experience score," which merges subjective feedback from occupants with objective data from sensors. This approach acknowledges the strengths and limitations of human perception, as people can quickly judge temperature but generally cannot detect elevated levels of pollutants like PM2.5 or TVOCs. 

The human experience score is calculated by combining satisfaction survey data and with sensor data monitoring CO2 and TVOC levels. A building's total score in this subcategory can range from the minimum requirement of eight credits, to the maximum of 20. 


LEED BD+C & ID+C Projects: IAQ Prerequisite and Enhanced IAQ Strategies

IAQ also plays a vital role in LEED Building Design and Construction (BD+C) and Interior Design and Construction (ID+C) projects. These projects have specific prerequisites and optional enhancements that can contribute to extra credits. Key aspects include data-driven IAQ performance and enhanced indoor air quality strategies.

IAQ Prerequisite

The minimum indoor air quality performance prerequisite ensures that the building provides occupants with a baseline level of IAQ that satisfies fundamental safety standards. While this prerequisite does not push for maximum optimization of healthy indoor environments, it sets a standard of minimum requirements. Real-time CO2 monitoring within each room can be used to meet a portion of this prerequisite.

Enhanced IAQ Strategies

The enhanced IAQ strategies credit offers buildings the opportunity to earn additional points in LEED by implementing advanced strategies. To earn this credit, a project must achieve at least three strategies for one point, or six strategies for two points. Continuous IAQ monitoring can help to achieve strategies number nine and ten. 

CO2 Monitoring - Strategy 9

This strategy is achieved by continuously monitoring CO2 levels in occupied areas. CO2 monitors should be installed in regularly occupied, densely populated spaces, placed between three and six feet (within the breathing zone) above the floor. Monitors should have either an audible or visual alarm, or be connected to the building management system.

Additional Source Control and Monitoring - Strategy 10

Strategy ten involves additional source control and monitoring for spaces where other indoor air pollutants may be present. This strategy requires evaluating potential contaminant sources in the indoor environment. Besides monitoring, building managers must develop and implement a plan to manage these sources and optimize the indoor environment to mitigate potential health risks.

IAQ Assessment

The Indoor Air Quality Assessment offers additional opportunities to earn IAQ-related points for LEED certification. The primary goal is to establish better indoor air quality after construction and during the occupancy phase. There are two options through which buildings can achieve the IAQ Assessment credits:

Option 1: Flush Out

The first option involves flushing the building of contaminants and purifying the indoor environment. While this method might be effective immediately after construction, the building's pollutant levels may change over time as various activities and factors can impact the IAQ. Thus, relying solely on the ‘flush out’ method might not provide an accurate representation of occupant exposure during typical use.

Option 2: Air Testing

Air testing is the second option and is a more reliable method, since it evaluates contaminant levels during occupation. This option can award up to two points towards LEED certification. One point is given for meeting thresholds for particulate matter and inorganic gasses, while another is awarded for volatile organic compounds (VOCs).

VOC levels play a significant role in LEED certification. The IAQ Assessment awards one of the two points for properly monitoring VOCs. If the initial Total Volatile Organic Compound (TVOC) reading exceeds 500 micrograms per cubic meter, actions must be taken to correct any identified issues, and tests should be run again. In addition to TVOC levels, LEED requires testing for specific individual VOCs. Ensuring that concentration thresholds for these VOCs are not exceeded is crucial for earning credits.


RESET Certification: Air Module

RESET is a modular green building standard that prioritizes occupant health within the built environment. RESET is set apart by its performance-driven approach, primarily relying on sensor readings and measurements as the foundation of the standard. Unlike WELL and LEED, which allow for on-site testing, RESET requires real-time, continuous sensor readings for certification.

RESET has several modules, including materials, air, water, energy, and circularity. In this discussion, we will focus on the RESET Air module, which emphasizes IAQ and its impact on health and well-being. The module applies to both commercial interiors and core and shell building types. 

RESET Air Requirements

RESET certification emphasizes the importance of continuously monitoring air quality, as it changes over time due to occupancy, user behavior, and seasonal variations. RESET Air requires constant measurement of five key parameters: particulate matter (PM2.5), total volatile organic compounds (TVOC), carbon dioxide (CO2), temperature, and relative humidity. 

RESET Air - Commercial Interiors

For commercial interiors, there are two performance levels that can be achieved: acceptable and high-performance. The acceptable level thresholds for PM2.5, TVOC, and CO2 are under 35 micrograms per cubic meter, 500 micrograms per cubic meter, and 1000 ppm, respectively. While there are no specific requirements for temperature and humidity levels, these parameters must be measured.

The high-performance thresholds are significantly stricter, especially for PM2.5 and CO2. High-performance PM2.5 levels must be under 12 micrograms per cubic meter, and CO2 levels must be no more than 600 ppm. 

Data-Driven IAQ: Achieving IAQ Requirements

The first step to enhancing IAQ is monitoring. Traditional methods involve having a third-party consultant or a professional inspect the building, recording measurements at different locations. However this method has several drawbacks, including the limitation of only providing one-time measurements and potential inconsistencies in location and timing. 

A more advanced and effective approach to improving IAQ is by implementing continuous monitoring using sensor technologies installed in various parts of the building. This allows for real-time data collection and analysis, providing a comprehensive picture of the air quality and identifying trends or patterns. With continuous monitoring in place, you can:

  1. Identify and address issues promptly: Detect changes in IAQ in real-time, enabling prompt action to correct any problems before they become severe.
  2. Establish informed strategies: Gain a better understanding of how various factors (e.g., occupancy, time of day, season) affect IAQ, allowing for targeted strategies to address specific issues.
  3. Evaluate the effectiveness of interventions: Implementing continuous monitoring means you can track the impact of any interventions or improvements made to the building's IAQ, ensuring they are effective and identifying any further adjustments needed.
  4. Communicate and engage with occupants: With comprehensive data, you can effectively communicate the efforts made to improve IAQ with building occupants, increasing their awareness and comfort level.

In conclusion, transitioning from traditional snapshot measurements to continuous monitoring is essential for effectively managing and improving IAQ. Leveraging advanced sensor technology and real-time data allows stakeholders to identify trends, address issues promptly, and make informed decisions to optimize their indoor environment. This data-driven approach ensures the well-being of building occupants and contributes to compliance with green building certification standards like WELL, LEED, and RESET.

Energy Savings and IAQ Management

One common mistake that building managers make when trying to improve IAQ is adopting excessive ventilation practices, such as constantly pumping large volumes of fresh air into the building. A holistic air quality monitoring system can help strike the right balance between ventilation and energy efficiency.

Ventilation accounts for a huge portion of a building's energy consumption. Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning (HVAC) systems are responsible for approximately 40% of a building's energy use, while buildings expend around 40% of global energy. Therefore, it is crucial to optimize ventilation in buildings to both maintain healthy indoor environments and minimize energy use.

Building managers can adjust ventilation levels based on real-time data by implementing continuous IAQ monitoring systems. For instance, if the CO2 levels in the building are already well within the acceptable range, the HVAC system can be slowed down, reducing the amount of fresh air being pumped into the space. This approach leads to energy savings and cost reductions without compromising occupant health and satisfaction.

Not Just About the Standards

In short, IAQ strategies are essential for achieving LEED, WELL, and RESET certification. Continuous monitoring can earn you a huge amount of points for both WELL v2 and LEED v4, and is perhaps the most important part of the RESET Air standard. Not only this, but continuous monitoring allows you to identify IAQ related issues quickly, establish informed strategies, evaluate the effectiveness of your interventions, and make large savings on your energy bills. 

Kaiterra’s commercial indoor air quality monitoring solutions are great options for not only WELL, but also RESET, LEED, and more. Find out more about our commercial line of air quality monitors by reaching out to our team below!

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