ASID Office Achieves Both LEED and WELL Building Platinum Certifications

The Washington, DC, office of the American Society of Interior Designers (ASID) serves as its headquarters, and it was the world’s first project certified “double-platinum.” Both the United States Green Building Council (USGBC), through its Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) program, and the International WELL Building Institute (IWBI), through its WELL Building Standard gave the headquarters building platinum certification.

Both certifications recognize the use of daylight and artificial lighting as important aspects of building design. Lighting was the focus of the three experts of the “The WELL Building Standard” panel. The panelists discussed the distinctions between the two standards at the National Lighting Bureau’s Annual Lighting Forum.  EdisonReport Editor and Publisher Randy Reid moderated the panel. The experts were:

• James R. “Jim” Benya, P.E., FIES, FIALD, principal and partner, Benya Burnett Consultancy, codesigner of the new lighting system used in the ASID’s Washington, DC headquarters;
• Deborah Burnett, ASID, CMG, AASM, principal and partner, Benya Burnett Consultancy, codesigner of the new lighting system used in the ASID’s Washington, DC headquarters; and
• Susan Chung, Ph.D., director of research and knowledge management, ASID, and lead researcher of the pre- and post-occupancy research of ASID’s Washington, DC headquarters.

Mr. Benya began the discussion by pointing out the similarities and differences of the LEED and WELL certification programs and their use of lighting. Both acknowledge the importance of views and daylighting, he said, but the LEED program tends to highlight energy efficiency, while the WELL program tends to stress compliance with a range of quality metrics. Both issues are relevant to ASID, Dr. Chung said, remarking that ASID wanted its offices to epitomize the association’s core interests of sustainability, health and wellness, and resiliency.

ASID Office Lighting a Challenge

Mr. Benya explained some of the lighting design issues that he and his partner, Deborah Burnett faced. The first challenge was the space itself, which ASID leases in an existing building. Skylights could not be installed to add daylight, and low ceilings were also an issue. However, he said, the field of north-facing windows provides glare-free natural light with no direct solar heat gain.

The second concern Mr. Benya discussed was budget. For their uniquely, budget-friendly design, he and Ms. Burnett used fluorescent lighting to emulate (perform the same function as) tunable white LED lighting. They were able to achieve dollar savings without sacrificing quality or functionality, two primary tenents of the Well Building certification.

Ms. Burnett pointed out that Benya Burnett’s method of lighting design had to change to achieve a high degree of compliance with WELL. Such compliance demands a new awareness about the interaction between lighting and its circadian impacts.

WELL Building Certification Considers Circadian Impact of Lighting

The lighting design had to consider the fact that office lighting affects people long after they leave the office. In fact, lighting during the daylight hours has been shown to affect how well people sleep at night. Furthermore, high-quality sleep is crucial to health, productivity, and workplace performance.

National Lighting Bureau Executive Director John Bachner noted that, for many years, the U.S. lighting community emphasized the notion that “light is for people.” “That concept is even more valid today,” he said, “because we’re beginning to learn so much more about lighting as a biological stimulant. That explains why Deborah [Burnett] spent so much time interviewing ASID employees as the first step of lighting design. In essence,” Bachner said, “the designers wanted the lighting users to complete the sentence, ‘I would benefit if the office lighting could help me _______________.’

As I see it, Jim and Deborah are blazing a new approach to lighting design, recognizing how much more contemporary technology can provide, and how much more we know about lighting’s impact on human functioning. Altogether, it’s fascinating.”

The panel discussion can be viewed at