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Prioritizing water quality with the WELL Building Standard

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Prioritizing water quality with the WELL Building Standard

Water is an important feature in the WELL Building Standard, and it is important for designers and building owners to design and adequately maintain buildings’ water systems.


By Hannah Arthur, RA, LEED Green Associate, WELL AP | Design Collaborative | February 1, 2024
Water Wellness drinking fountain
Photo courtesy Design Collaborative

In each edition of Building WELLness, DC WELL Accredited Professionals Hannah Arthur and Alex Kircher highlight an item of the WELL Building Standard. The standard aims to promote the health & wellbeing of building occupants using evidence-based strategies for health, safety, and performance. In this edition we are highlighting a feature from the Water Category.

Water, essential to a healthy life, can also be a source of harm by allowing for the growth of molds and other harmful organisms. When water is provided to a building and its occupants, measures should be taken to ensure that the water is clean and of a quality that improves well-being.

WELL Building Standard for Water

How does building design affect the water quality for its occupants? Water is an important component for the design and operation of building systems, heating and cooling, appliances, and shower use. For larger buildings like hospitals, hotels, and schools, this is especially important. Legionella is one of those organisms that can easily develop and be harmful to humans, especially those with weaker immune systems. The complicated building systems of these types of facilities can create ideal conditions to produce legionella.

Alliance Health Lafayette Medical Center Patient Room
Alliance Health Lafayette Medical Center Patient Room. Photo courtesy Design Collaborative


Legionella Prevention

Feature W03, Basic Water Management of the WELL Building Standard works to implement protocols for reducing the risk of water quality loss to Legionella colonization. The water management feature works to reduce the health risks associated with contaminated water in addition to avoiding conditions that allow for mold growth by requiring water samples to be tested at least once a year for the following:

  • Turbidity
  • pH
  • residual chlorine
  • total coliforms

This feature requires that the facility create a Legionella plan that addresses the building systems and operations, including a plan for remediation if the results of the samples are above the allowed thresholds.

Van Wert County Hospital Dental Clinic Patient Room
Van Wert County Hospital Dental Clinic Patient Room. Photo courtesy Design Collaborative

Another interesting item to note for healthcare projects is that CMS (Center for Medicaid and Medicare Services) requires that hospitals have a Legionella plan.

Water is an important feature in the WELL Building Standard, and it is important for us as designers and you as building owners/managers to design and adequately maintain buildings’ water systems. As we continue to dive deeper into the WELL Features and how they can be incorporated into design, think about how they could improve the wellbeing of each person in your space. Follow along for more insights on WELL Building Standard Features from DC.

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