Should I Get My WELL AP?

Sarah Haenel's picture
Sarah Haenel
May 2, 2016

The WELL AP credential compliments LEED and green building certification and could gain wide acceptance in building, design and construction.

WELL marries best practices in design, construction and evidence-based medical and scientific research to support human health and well-being.
WELL marries best practices in design, construction and evidence-based medical and scientific research to support human health and well-being.
Credit: Poplar Network

Designed and developed by Delos, the WELL Building StandardⓇ is the world’s first building standard focused on human health and wellness.

The WELL Standard echoes the intent of the LEED Indoor Environmental Quality (EQ) category, but goes much further.

Indeed, you could say that WELL is the equivalent of the EQ category “on steroids”.

WELL marries best practices in design, construction and evidence-based medical and scientific research to support human health and well-being.

For buildings that have earned other green building certifications, or are considering it, WELL intentionally compliments LEED and overlaps with Living Building Challenge, and pursuing certain concepts in WELL could lead to achieving specific LEED credits and Living Building Challenge Imperatives.

Where the LEED Indoor Environmental Quality (EQ) category addresses human health factors such as indoor air quality, access to quality light and views and individual thermal regulation controls, WELL does a “deep dive” into seven wellness categories, referred to as “Concepts”.

The concepts include air, water, nourishment, light, fitness, comfort and mind. Like LEED, there is also an "Innovation" category with five additional opportunities to achieve a higher level of WELL certification.

Free WELL AP test

The WELL concepts specifically address 100 separate factors that span all seven concepts and includes 5 additional credits for “Innovation”, for a total of 105 possible "points". The WELL Concepts are:

  • Air
  • Water 
  • Nourishment
  • Light
  • Fitness
  • Comfort
  • Mind

Whereas the LEED BD+C v4 Rating Systems address “comfort”, “air quality” and “light” within the Indoor Environmental Quality (EQ) credit category, WELL goes deeper, assigning some of these entire categories, or “Concepts”, of their own.

For example the LEED EQ category includes 12 prerequisites and credits: Prerequisites are Minimum Indoor Air Quality Performance, Environmental Tobacco Smoke Control and Minimum Acoustic Performance. LEED credits in the EQ category include Enhanced Indoor Air Quality Strategies, Low-Emitting Materials, Construction Indoor Air Quality Management Plan, Indoor Air Quality Assessment, Thermal Comfort, Interior Lighting, Daylight, Quality Views and Acoustic Performance.

In the credit EQ Indoor Air Quality Assessment, LEED references the limit of 500 μg/m³ of total volatile organic compounds (TVOC) in the building, but fulfilling this credit is optional, not mandatory as it is with WELL certification.

All WELL certified buildings may not have more than 500 μg/m³ of total volatile organic compounds (TVOC) in the air.

Volatile organic compounds (VOC) are offgassed by many common new building materials such as paints, carpet, finishes, adhesives and furniture and, when combined with other degrading factors, can contribute to poor work productivity among occupants or even “sick building syndrome”. WELL standardizes and regulates the use of toxic materials indoors so that conditions like respiratory problems, nausea, headaches and skin rashes can be avoided.

The WELL Building Standard has four levels of certification:

  • Silver Certification: Buildings must achieve all applicable preconditions but are not required to achieve any optimization concepts.
  • Core and Shell Compliance: Buildings must achieve all applicable preconditions and at least one optimization from each WELL Building Standard concept mentioned above.
  • Gold Certification: Buildings must achieve all applicable preconditions and at least 40 percent of applicable optimizations.
  • Platinum Certification: This is the highest level of achievement. Buildings must achieve all applicable preconditions mentioned in the WELL Building Standard and must also meet 80 percent of applicable optimizations.

Acceptance and Adoption of WELL

Like LEED, the WELL Building Standard is an approach to addressing the challenges of sustainability through the lens of business. Indeed, the WELL standard exists at the intersection of real estate and healthcare, two of the largest investment and business markets in the world. WELL attempts to solve problems in both markets.

In real estate, much of our built environment is developed to code, which in many places means nothing more than that people can easily enter and exit, that the building will not spontaneously burst into flames, that it will not flood and that it should not fall down.

Almost no consideration is given to occupant behavior, health or wellness.

The WELL standard, like LEED, places higher design and operating requirements on buildings to provide better accommodations, natural light, access to views, physical movement and nutrition. Because most of us spend 90% of our lives indoors, and breathe in over 15,000 liters of air in our environment, WELL applied to an office environment could reduce absenteeism, sick days and improve health to make occupants more satisfied and more productive at the same time.

Businesses that invest in their employees should be willing to invest in WELL because the returns on investment of healthier, happier, more productive employees could be profound.

Respected green building industry sources, such as BuildingGreen, indicate that WELL is a legitimate standard for buildings. Adoption of the Standard is increasing and, since the initial development of the WELL Standard for buildings in 2012, 20 million square feet of buildings and 12 countries have enrolled in WELL.

WELL AP mental healthJust last year in 2015, Delos announced its partnership with Strategic Property Partners (SPP) to create the world’s first WELL Certified city district in Tampa, Florida. Delos and Strategic Property Partners will demonstrate the benefits of WELL on over 40 acres of repurposed urban land.

Strategic Property Partners has already begun to transform Tampa into a place that promotes human health. Through SPP, The University of South Florida recently announced they have chosen a site for their new Morsani College of Medicine (MCOM) and USF Health Heart Institute that will jump-start the downtown Tampa WELL redevelopment project.

In addition to the WELL project in Tampa, Delos expanded its partnership with the Chinese real estate company, Sino-Ocean Land, to extend the benefits of WELL internationally. Sino-Ocean Land has committed to repurposing over 26 million square feet of building projects into WELL Certified, sustainable, efficient and occupant-friendly environments over a five-year period.

The WELL AP Credential

The WELL AP credential is similar to the LEED AP credential in many ways. The exams are developed by Green Business Certification Inc. (GBCI) and delivered using Prometric testing centers. The exam is computer-based. Each test item has been crafted by a global network of experts and tests for understanding relevant WELL AP subject matter. The exam will consist of three testing elements: recall items, application items, and analysis items.

The WELL AP credential designates a strong understanding of the WELL Building Standard and the relationship between human health and the built environment.

By becoming a WELL AP, you can not only speak intelligently about the benefits of the standard, but also know that by implementing it, you could be contributing to improving human health and to providing your clients with a positive return and greater profits.

What is on the WELL AP exam?

The primary source of material on the WELL AP exam is the WELL Building Standard. The WELL standard is available for free from the International WELL Building Institute website.

The WELL AP Candidate Handbook does not include all of the primary references for WELL AP exam questions, but lists the WELL Building Standard, the WELL Building Certification Guidebook, information on the International WELL Building Institute and GBCI.

Like the LEED professional exams, the WELL AP exam is comprised of questions from Knowledge Domains relevant to the WELL Building Standard. Knowledge domains reflect the WELL Building Standard’s Concepts and certification process. There are 15 pre-test questions. The following is a list of Knowledge Domains and the number of exam questions that may be found on the WELL AP exam:

Air (13 questions)

a. Human Health

  • impacts of air quality on human health and wellness
  • sources, vectors and routes of human exposure to airborne contaminants throughout the lifecycle of the buildings and products
  • risk levels associated with airborne contaminants
  • risk and protective factors around acute and chronic conditions related to airborne contaminants

b. Strategies

  • strategies to prevent issues and improve indoor air quality at the design, construction, and operations stages
  • strategies for evaluating outside air quality (regional differences)
  • strategies for evaluating and maintaining indoor air quality over time (regional differences)                                        
  • how to apply the principles of risk assessment to minimize human exposure to airborne contaminants
  • material lifecycle, material specifications and material ingredient labeling conventions, including how to read a specifications sheet 

c. Operations

  • difference between source control and pollution elimination methods
  • how to manage key classes of pollutants and how they arise from building features (e.g., microbiologicals, gases, particulates)
  • causes and effects of building envelope leaks, floods, and condensation issues
  • improvement and maintenance of IAQ techniques and technology

Water (8 questions)

a. Human Health

  • global burden of disease related to water quality and accessibility 
  • risk factors associated with health outcomes caused by source water contaminants

b. Treatment & Management

  • how to differentiate between source water, delivery water, and consideration of use onsite (e.g., drinking water, utility water)
  • risk factors in the distribution network
  • how to assess routes of exposure (e.g., infection, chemical exposure)
  • methods of drinkable water access
  • water quality mitigation options
  • hazards and risks related to water (e.g., mold, legionella)
  • how to identify which fixtures are subject to which Feature(s)

Nourishment (8 questions)

a. Human Health

  • global burden of disease related to nourishment (e.g., obesity, cardiovascular disease, diabetes
  • body mass index, nutritional information, serving sizes
  • health implications of consuming processed foods, certain fats, artificial ingredients, sugar and sugar-sweetened beverages

b. Strategies

  • strategies for food production (e.g., gardening)
  • strategies for encouraging healthy eating behaviors (e.g., culture, education, break room spaces, dinnerware sizes, transparency about food ingredients)
  • strategies for applying Features based on the project situation (e.g., cafeteria vs. no cafeteria, kitchen facilities, creating lease language in food court/concessions, individual restaurants, creating mindful eating spaces)
  • strategies for promoting healthy foods (e.g., circulation, ease of access, location)

c. Design, Operations, & Management

  • food safety basics (e.g., sources of food contamination, preparation, responsible handling, storage)
  • implementation and operational requirements associated with control points (e.g., cold storage)
  • managing alternate paths (e.g., community supported agriculture, non-cafeteria vendors)

Light (11 questions)

a. Human Health

  • link between melanopic lux and circadian functioning
  • difference between light for circadian functioning, psychological well-being, and vision
  • daylight as an energy effective way of delivering circadian and other well-being benefits
  • positive and negative impacts of light exposure
  • mechanisms associated with disruption to the circadian system

b. Metrics & Technical

  • how to use virtual models or other methodologies to evaluate lighting quality (e.g., contrast models, individual controls, adjustments strategies, glare control)
  • how to identify features of lighting quality (e.g., illumination, luminance balance, glare control, color quality, flicker, light adaptation, non-visual intensity)

c. Strategies

  • validation methods for different daylighting features, including testing and performance
  • lighting tools (including traditional light meters vs. other measuring tools) and design software
  • design and validation strategies related to daylight and electric light

Fitness (8 questions)

a. Human Health

  • global burden of disease caused by lack of physical activity
  • benefits of fitness, physical activity, and active lifestyle
  • deleterious effects of sedentariness and lack of physical activity in daily routine

b. Strategies

  • strategies for engaging behavioral change with design features (e.g., adjustable desk, adjustable chair, office circulation/movement)
  • strategies for improving fitness through Feature optimization in each typography -- tenant improvements, whole building, core and shell
  • strategies for encouraging occupants to be active in and out of the workplace

WELL AP Nutrition

Comfort (10 questions)

a. Acoustic

  • relationships between physical/environmental stress (including interruptions) and impact on acoustic comfort
  • metrics relevant for acoustic comfort (e.g., NRC, NC, STC, reverberation time)
  • design strategies appropriate to diverse spaces and activities to maximize acoustic comfort and minimize noise complaints

b. Thermal

  • positive and negative impacts of the built environment on thermal comfort
  • measurement of thermal parameters, thermal comfort, and interpretation of psychometric chart
  • strategies to enhance thermal comfort (e.g., occupant control at workspace, behavioral/move where occupant desires, apply adaptive thermal comfort model)

c. Ergonomics

  • differences among interventions to improve occupant comfort
  • global burden of disease of musculoskeletal diseases related to poor ergonomics (e.g., seating, desk, standing)

Mind (9 questions)

a. Human Health

  • global burden of disease related to mental health (e.g., stress, depression, anxiety, decreased productivity) 
  • importance of psychological and social well-being to human health

b. Stress Reduction

  • stress reduction strategies (e.g., self-monitoring, family support, sleep policy, job support) to increase peace of mind
  • how to develop policies aimed at promoting well-being (e.g., health benefits programs, family care policies)
  • sources and management of environmental stress and psychosocial stress (e.g., empowering with knowledge/education, awareness, materials and organizational transparency)

c. Transparency

  • evaluating organization’s transparency (social equity practices) to comply with ILFI’s JUST program and/or GBI’s Sustainability Reporting Framework
  • selecting appropriate interior finishes, systems furniture, and seating, including leveraging 3rd party disclosure (e.g., Declare Label, HPD) and making this information readily available to employees

d. Beautify & Biophillia

  • the Beauty and Spirit Imperative of the Living Building Challenge (human delight, celebration of culture, celebration of spirit, celebration of place, and meaningful integration of public art)
  • concepts of biophilia and developing a biophilia plan to incorporate nature through environmental elements, lighting and space layout, incorporating nature’s patterns throughout the design, and opportunities for human-nature interactions within the building and external spaces
  • writing narratives that describe how a particular plan incorporates beauty

e. Adaptable Spaces: Design & Policy

  • design principles to reduce distracting stimuli and encourage privacy (e.g., designated zones, spacing, lighting, noise criteria)
  • how to integrate space and furniture options to provide workplace rest support 
  • how to evaluate and/or recommend a healthy sleep policy that limits business obligations during reasonable sleep hours and subsidizes devices/software to monitor sleep-related behaviors

WELL Certification (10 questions)

a. Planning & Preparation

  • structure of WELL Building Standard (e.g. – Concepts, Preconditions, Features, levels of WELL Certification and scoring)
  • codes and other rating systems (e.g., relationship between WELL and green building/ other building codes, other rating systems) 
  • applicability of the WELL Building Standard to building sectors and project typologies 
  • how to identify Preconditions and Features for different projects by typology and market  
  • Alternate Adherence Paths 
  • value of performance verification in the certification process
  • tenant vs. building owner responsibilities

b. Execution for WELL Certification                                                        

  • expertise a WELL project team would be comprised of and how to coordinate project team activities
  • how to hold a stakeholder charrette to identify strategic project goals, discussing needs of the occupants, developing a plan to implement targeted WELL concepts, and preparing operations and maintenance plans related to wellness
  • how to identify resources needed to complete the submittal process (e.g., WELL assessors, architects, interior designers, safety/environmental compliance officers, wellness coordinators, MEP engineers, acoustical consultants, indoor air quality testing labs, water testing labs)
  • calculating variables to meet WELL Features Standards (e.g., total vs. available optimizations, units of measure, spec sheets, metrics) how to identify Features that are subject to performance verification
  • how to identify Features that require measurable performance indicators beyond design (e.g., policies, education, behavior)
  • how to navigate the bid process to ensure WELL Features remain included
  • how to identify gaps between standard buildings and WELL buildings
  • how to respond to non-passing performance verification results and identifying appropriate steps for curative measures
  • requirements to maintain building certification  

c. Advocacy & Promotion for WELL 

  • the value of healthy built environments (e.g., project quality, consistency, building performance, staff retention, improved user outcomes, enhanced health and wellness of occupants, marketing/branding opportunities) and the strategies involved to communicate them to stakeholders
  • basic categories of incentive-types for clients to implement healthy building practices   
  • how to use financial analyses to support WELL and green buildings (e.g., return on investment, triple bottom line, increased productivity, value proposition for implementing strategies)

Synergies (8 questions)

a. Conflicts & Tradeoffs

  • Synergies between all concepts addressed in the WELL Building Standard (e.g., materials and air quality; comfort, energy, and light; fitness and mindful eating) 

b. Application & Education

  • the roles and responsibilities of the project team for individual WELL Building Standard Features
  • how to educate owners, project team, users, and other key stakeholders about the importance of WELL Features

WELL AP sleep disorders


Green building is increasing in popularity because business owners and employers are learning how they can not only save, but also earn more money through sustainable strategies.

LEED professional credentials are increasingly in demand on job boards and WELL AP credentials demonstrate expertise in the increasingly relevant area of occupant health and efficiency. Jobs that look for people with LEED and WELL AP credentials include real estate associates, commissioning and construction services, project architects, energy efficiency associates, sustainability consultants, and more.

Specifically, a project management position available in Texas and an interior and sustainable design coordinator position in Indiana both prefer applicants with LEED and other sustainability related credentials.

WELL AP Exam Cost

The WELL AP exam is expensive. The lowest price of the WELL AP exam is $425 on or before June 30th, 2016. After July 1st, 2016, the cost of the exam will rise to as much as $800!

The exam fee for candidates taking the exam before June 30th, 2016 are as follows:

  • For USGBC members, LEED APs and LEED Green Associates the exam fee is $425.
  • For candidates who do not belong to the prior groups or credentials, exam fee is $600.
  • The biennial Credentialing Maintenance Fee during this time is $125.

Prices rise after July 1st, 2016. For candidates taking the WELL AP exam after July 1st, 2016 the prices are as follows:

  • For USGBC members, LEED APs and LEED Green Associates the exam fee is $600.
  • For non USGBC members or LEED credential holders, the exam fee is $800.
  • The Credentialing Maintenance Fee during this time remains $125.

Are there Prerequisites for WELL APs?

Candidates must be at least 18 years of age and comply with the Disciplinary and Exam Appeals Policy, a policy that states all information provided by the candidate is true and that the GBCI may choose to, at any time, deny or approve a candidate receiving of a WELL AP credential.

Although not a requirement, the Green Business Certification Institute (GBCI) recommends that WELL AP candidates have prior experience with green building, such as volunteer service, work experience, or education background. However, there are no formal educational prerequisites to becoming a WELL AP.

WELL AP Exam Dates Registration and Dates

Candidates need to registration to set up a time, date, and location for the WELL AP Exam. To register you must,

1. Log in to WELL Online or if you do not already have an account, follow the steps listed on the page to create one. Make sure the name you use to create a WELL Online account with matches the name on the I.D. that you will present at your testing site. This is important for identification and processing when you arrive at your testing site. If the names do not match, you can update your profile to show the correct name by following the steps indicated on your WELL homepage.

2. Scroll to the credentials section of the page and select “WELL AP Exam” and complete the exam application.

3. The screen will redirect you to where you will choose your testing date, time, and location. You will receive a confirmation email including your testing schedule.

4. The email will contain a confirmation number. Keep this confirmation number as it will be the way you will confirm, cancel, or reschedule your exam. It may help to print out your confirmation number if you need to contact Prometric about your exam.

There are no set dates for the WELL AP exam. You may schedule your exam time for any dates that are available at the Prometric testing center in your area.

Prometric urges WELL AP candidates check the status of their testing appointment the day before and the day of their testing date. Some testing locations may close due to inclement weather or other unforeseen events. You can check the status of your exam location here.

WELL Exam Prep

WELL Building StandardAll WELL AP candidates should refer to the WELL Building Standard, WELL AP Candidate Handbook and the Certification Guidebook.

These documents are designed to help you understand the WELL standard as well as provide general information pertaining to subject material on the test.

The WELL exam may test you on recall items, application items, analysis questions and experimental questions.

Recall items are meant to measure a candidate's ability to remember specific information and require a higher depth of cognitive processing compared to simple recognition.

Application items are scenario type questions. Candidates are given a situation and must apply the most appropriate response. Questions that test application methods require a higher degree of cognitive processing because the candidate must be able to accurately identify the problem and address it correctly.

Analysis questions are given to test a candidate’s ability to recognize and accurately define all of the elements to a scenario. Candidates are expected to point out the relationship between different elements in a scenario.

The exam has scored and experimental unscored items. You will not be able to differentiate between which questions are scored and which are not, so it is important that every test item is answered. Unscored items are present for data retrieval and give test makers feedback for whether to include that question on a future exam.

Expect to designate roughly 2 hours and 20 minutes for taking the WELL AP Exam, including a 10 minute pre-exam tutorial on how to take the exam, what to do if you have questions during the exam, etc. and an optional 10 minute exit interview that test makers can use to analyze the effectiveness of the exam.

Free WELL AP Practice Test Simulator

WELL AP Practice Tests

Practice tests are one of the most effective ways to prepare for the exam. These practice exams simulate questions that use concepts and phrasing that you will encounter on the actual exam. Practicing with exam simulators will acclimate you to the style of the WELL AP exam and will help you master not only the exam concepts but also the exam structure. 

On your actual exam day, you will take the exam at a Prometric Testing Center. You will not be allowed to bring anything into the testing center with you. However, the exam proctor will provide you with a pencil or pen and something to write on, such as a small whiteboard tablet or a piece of paper. You can use this material to write down certain information that you need to remember during the exam. 

Once you have completed the sample exam below, you will receive a copy of the answer key from us via email. It is recommended that you keep taking practice exams until you are comfortably scoring between 95-100%.


Free WELL AP Exam Ad

Sleep WELL Before the Exam

Don't just talk the talk... Walk the walk! You’re prepping for the WELL AP exam so get plenty of beauty sleep the night before the test.

Studies show that people who sleep enough are likely to perform better when presented with actions that test cognitive ability. Lack of sleep results in the inability to focus and retain material compared to a fully rested brain.

Sleep plays a major role in the learning process. Every time you go to bed, your brain has a chance to take a break and process all the information you gathered throughout the day. Therefore, the more you study and then sleep on it, the better your retention is.

Arrive Early to Your Testing Location

Test taking is stressful enough. Avoid any added stress by allowing yourself enough time to get to your testing facility. Most Prometric testing centers are in major cities and urban locations. Find the nearest coffee shop or cafe nearest to the testing center, and on the day of your exam go there several hours early and study. Then, about an hour or forty five minutes prior to your exam, start making your way over to the exam center. Don't look at any more exam materials... If you want to write notes prior to your exam, take advantage of the pre-test walk through to jot some notes down on the piece of paper or white board tablet the exam proctor will give you. That's the only thing you can bring into the exam area.

After You’ve Passed: Credential Maintenance

WELL AP credentials require maintenance biennially. This means that two years after you earned your WELL AP credential, you must submit a report detailing all of your continuing education hours earned during those two years as a WELL AP. Failure to submit a report results in expiration of the WELL AP credential.

For the credential maintenance program, WELL APs must complete 30 continuing education hours, including 6 WELL-specific hours. You can use the seven WELL Building Standard concepts to help determine what is considered a WELL-specific health and wellness topic. It is important that WELL APs stay on top of the latest building standards to provide the newest, most up-to-date building designs to future clients.

Professionals can visit the CMP Guide for Credential Maintenance to learn more about what they need to do in order to maintain their WELL AP credential for years to come.



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Relevant education and training to consider.

GreenStep WELL AP Exam Study Guide (PDF)

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