The green movement continues to accelerate as shown by a Dodge Data & Analytics report which reveals that the building industry’s commitment to green projects doubled in 2016 when compared to responses collected in its 2012 survey.
Sustainable design took off in the 1990s and early 2000s with the development and increased acceptance of building rating systems such as Building Research Establishment's Environmental Assessment Method (BREEAM), USGBC’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) and other building certification initiatives. In the 2000s, building standards focusing on occupant wellness began to emerge, such as FitWel and the WELL Building Standard.
Building certification schemes for sustainability and wellness typically specify a set number of credits that must be reached to achieve certification (prerequisites) with projects earning points from achieving further credits across several categories, including indoor air quality, material selection, optimized energy performance and reductions in water usage.
Choices of certain building components that meet the stated criteria, such as furniture, flooring, paints, coatings and adhesives also help the building achieve credits and ultimately certification. As different materials must meet various requirements to meet the thresholds of compliance, it can be difficult for specifiers to determine what products contribute to point accumulation.
To help specifiers, architects and designers identify products that contribute to building certifications that contain human health and wellness criteria, UL Environment developed Wellness Certification for products.
“It’s a way for products to show competitive advantage while simplifying the job of the specifier, who instead of poring over reams of product data to find a qualified product, can now quickly discover appropriate products,” explains Scott Laughlin, a product manager for UL Environment.
Manufacturers interested in pursuing Wellness Certification work with an environmental product manager (EPM) to determine the testing or auditing required for product certification.
Next, the EPM learns material facts about the product. Has it already achieved other product certifications? For instance, if a chair has already received GREENGUARD Certification, UL Product Lens or verification to BIFMA ergonomics standards, they can use documentation from these other product certifications or tests to satisfy required components of Wellness Certification. If further testing is needed to achieve applicable criteria, the EPM will discuss those needs with the manufacturer.
As Laughlin explains, “Consider light output: It could be the flicker rate or the color quality from the light. These are all things that are routinely tested for and perhaps here's documentation that says it already meets certain criteria. The EPM validates that the criteria have been met and that the manufacturer has the proper, up to date reports.”
Upon completion of document review, product testing and evaluation of the results, the manufacturer receives a report, certificate and permission to use the UL Wellness Certified Mark on the product. The Mark includes a QR code that links to the manufacturer’s product page on UL’s database, and it is also featured in SPOT, UL’s online product guide for comprehensive certified product information.
“Wellness certification enables a product manufacturer to position their product in a competitive marketplace,” adds Laughlin. “The public trusts third-party certifications as they independently look at the attributes of a product, giving a clear signal to the public that this product meets the appropriate criteria.”