WELL Tip: How to Craft a Successful Alternative Adherence Path (AAP)
Is your project team struggling to meet the requirements of a WELL feature?
Every WELL project is different, so it’s not uncommon for project teams to encounter unique, nuanced or complex elements that could make it hard to comply with certain WELL Building Standard feature requirements. That’s why we encourage project teams to leverage Alternative Adherence Path’s (AAPs) to pursue new and alternative strategies to meet the intent of WELL features or feature parts.
IWBI encourages the use of AAPs on projects because WELL Certification is ultimately about achieving performance and outcomes: the WELL Building Standard includes specific evidence-based strategies for health and well-being outcomes, but there are often other design, operations, or policy protocols that can achieve the same results through different means.
AAPs provide opportunities for innovation and creativity, empowering project teams to help shape the future of WELL. AAPs with broader applications are made public so that other projects may pursue and apply them to advance their work with WELL.
Read on for a step-by-step guide to the AAP process:
Proposing New AAPs
Evaluate the parts of the feature that your project is struggling to meet.
For example, a project may be challenged to meet Part 2 of Feature 8, Healthy Entrance. While the project has a walk off system that meets the requirements of Part 1, it cannot meet the requirements of Part 2 for this feature as written. Part 2, Entryway Air Seal, has 3 means of compliance as listed in the WELL Building Standard, none of which this project meets.
Understand the feature intent.
To be approved, an AAP needs to achieve the intent of that feature or feature part – so it’s important that you are very clear on what that is. There are several places to find information about a feature’s intent, including:
- The intent listed for the feature
- The concept the feature falls within
- The introductory text about the feature
- The feature requirement language
Review existing AAPs, Equivalencies, and Technical FAQs for the feature.
Each feature page in the digital WELL Building Standard has tabs that link to the feature’s Equivalencies, AAPs, and Technical FAQs, which can help to inform new AAPs or illuminate another pathway to achieving the feature without submitting a new AAP.
If you would like to utilize a universally applicable AAP on your project to meet a feature’s requirements, you should let your WELL Assessor know that in advance of submitting project documentation. Your WELL Assessor can confirm the documentation you are required to submit to demonstrate compliance with that AAP. You do not need to utilize the AAP form to submit a universally applicable AAP listed on the IWBI website. Utilizing a universally applicable AAP does not count as one of the free AAPs to which projects are entitled.
Review relevant WELL citations to identify potential AAP strategies.
AAPs should be substantiated with evidence. It’s not enough to say that you want to put in place a certain strategy and that you think it will achieve the feature’s intent. You need to demonstrate that the strategy you’re proposing is supported by evidence suggesting that it will achieve the intent of the feature. Start by reviewing the citations for that feature and its relevant parts, which help to provide context for the WELL feature requirement and may provide ideas for AAPs.
Consider conducting your own research to identify and substantiate your AAP.
To substantiate your AAP proposal, consider doing some of your own research. to evaluate alternative strategies you might employ to comply with the intent of the feature that you’re not able to meet. To get started:
- Check out relevant citations from the documents cited in the WELL Building Standard
- Conduct a literature review utilizing peer-reviewed research, such as through a Google Scholar search
- Compile other data to help support your AAP (i.e., government-sourced air quality data, employee data, etc.)
Make sure your AAP is an actual alternative strategy, rather than a request for an exemption from the feature requirement.
Your AAP must include an actual alternative strategy that meets the intent of the feature. It cannot be a request for an exemption or for a reduced threshold without offering another means of achieving the feature’s intent.
An example of an AAP that would not be accepted is one for Feature 73, Part 2 that states that because it is too expensive for the project to achieve the minimum threshold of 30% sit/stand options at workstations, the AAP is to meet a threshold of 15% instead. This AAP does not provide any alternative strategies of meeting the feature’s intent and the required threshold.
However, one of the universally applicable AAPs that was approved for this feature part is that ‘the project may provide a lower threshold of the required initial percentage of sit/stand workstations required by the feature, in conjunction with a future purchase commitment and an educational campaign.’ This approved AAP clearly outlined alternative strategies to meet the feature’s intent and threshold goals.
Consider attaching annotated supporting documentation.
Submitting supporting documentation for your proposed AAP can be helpful, though it is not required. Documentation could include anything from a floorplan of your office highlighting relevant elements to a cited research paper. When submitting documentation, please make sure that it is annotated and that the relevant parts to your AAP and project are clearly highlighted. Supporting documentation needs to be in the English language.
Now that you’ve crafted an AAP, make sure to submit it for approval in your WELL Online account. Finally, reach out to your WELL Assessor or firstname.lastname@example.org (for unregistered projects) with questions about AAPs on your project. As always, we’re committed to providing the tools, resources and high touch support you need to advance your work with WELL.
In addition to reading this article, you can also check out this webcast to hear stories of approved AAP’s, learn what made these AAP’s successful and find out how you can craft your own AAPs to achieve similar success.
Kate Rube is on the Technical Solutions team at IWBI, where she utilizes her experience in active design, placemaking and sustainability to help guide project teams through the WELL Certification process. Trained as an urban planner, Kate is passionate about creating places where people thrive, and she spends as much of her free time as she can enjoying New York City's neighborhoods, parks, and public spaces.