October 30, 2023

WELL v2 Feature X05 – Enhanced Material Restrictions

Michael Munn, LEED AP, WELL Faculty, CPHC
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Addressing Chemical Hazards in Building Materials

With increasing concerns around the health hazards associated with certain chemicals, there has been a substantial movement towards understanding and mitigating the risks associated with these substances and eliminating them from the spaces we heavily occupy.

Efforts like ILFI’s Red List, the European Union’s regulations REACH and RoHS (Restriction of Hazardous Substances) are setting the bar. Entities like Harvard University, Google, and a growing slate of premier architecture firms are pushing the market with their own exclusions of substances known or considered to be carcinogenic, hormone disrupting, or damaging to organs, and so forth.

In WELL v2’s Optimization X05 – specific substances are to be limited to no more than 100 ppm by weight across specific building materials that comprise the indoor environments we occupy.

Designing towards, and tracking compliance with this WELL Optimization often proves challenging to teams, so we’ve developed a tool to help - and we want to share it. Make sure to download it via the link below and tell us what you think!

The Tool

This tool is intended to help designers track their proposed material selections, and builders or WELL consultants to track what’s purchased and installed, similar to how LEED Material credit tracking works.

Users of the tool can select a category per X05 requirements, enter in the relevant product and manufacturer details, and costs. In the absence of known costs, placeholders will work (e.g., $1) if focused on selecting compliant materials. Depending on the selected category, the hazardous chemical criteria columns will automatically tailor what’s applicable to the selected category.

More on the WELL Feature

Chemical compounds and classes of particular concern include Halogenated Flame Retardants, Orthophthalates (but not Terephthalates), Lead, Cadmium, Mercury, and Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS). Each material category looks to restrict one or more of these, allowing no more than 100 ppm by weight, or comply with European Union’s Restriction of Hazardous Substances (RoHS) regulation. Points are awarded if 50% by cost for all materials within a part comply.


Part 1

  • Textiles and plastics in furniture, millwork, and fixtures
  • Electrical and electronic products: cables,electrical boxes, tubing and conduit, fire alarms, sensors, meters, thermostats, and load break switches.

Part 2

  • Flooring
  • Insulation (including ducts and pipe insulation)
  • Ceilings and wall panels
  • Pipes and fittings intended for drinking water distribution

This is important!

The New School’s Parsons Healthy Materials Lab references Epigenetics,the study of chemical markers that bind to DNA and change the way it functions,as a case in point for why designers and specifiers need to commit to excluding these chemicals in our occupied spaces. Epigenetic changes in the sperm or eggs can follow exposures to various stressors and be passed down to future generations. A health effect in an occupant can be a transgenerational effect if, say, an occupant is pregnant, and the fetus’ reproductive organs are negatively impacted by toxic exposure.

For much more information (and referenced studies), WELL’s Research Digest is a great resource to dig deeper on scientific background, key health effects, and strategies to exclude.


We hope this tool helps those designing and building our interior surroundings to restrict harmful substances from our built environment– and if pursuing WELL, to achieve its important and challenging feature: Materials Optimization X05!


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