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Tim Coyle

COVID-19 Scam

There are several pandemic scams out there. Cure promises, fake virus tests, Medicare rip-offs, phony PPP applications and price gouging (for everything from hand sanitizer to toilet paper) are just some of the frauds.

But, few compare to the banality of the WELL Health building certification by the International WELL Building Institute (IWBI). The IWBI, which was established ten years ago – at the apex of the “greenbuilding” era (an anti global-warming brainchild of the past) – says its building certification affirms, on the basis of satisfying ten criteria, the building is safe to the public.

Those ten criteria are 1) air quality; 2) water quality; 3) nourishment; 4) lighting; 5) movement; 6) thermal comfort; 7) materials; 8) mind; 9) community; and 10) innovation. Huh?

The certification is the latest in a decades-long campaign by environmental activists to dictate the building or retrofitting of business facilities and residences according to a strict “greenbuilding” formula.

It would understandable if the IWBI certification was the only game in town. Unfortunately, it’s not. There are several certifications and, not surprisingly, as many redundancies. The Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification is the most popular. Says LEED’s parent organization, the U.S. Greenbuilding Council, “We believe green buildings are the foundation of something bigger: helping people, and the communities and cities they reside in – safely, healthily and sustainably thrive.”

Another certification is the widely promoted EcoLab seal. More specialized than the others EcoLab is a “corporation that develops and offers services, technology and systems that specialize in water treatment, purification, cleaning and hygiene in a wide variety of (mechanical and technical) applications.”

Then, there’s the World Green Building Council (“the Council”) which says
“A ‘green’ building is a one that, in its design, construction or operation, reduces or eliminates negative impacts and can create positive impacts, on our climate and natural environment.” The Council okays a building if it:

• Makes efficient use of energy, water and other resources;
• Makes use of renewable energy, such as solar energy;
• Provides pollution and waste reduction measures, and further enables reuse and recycling of materials;
• Provides good indoor environmental air quality;
• Makes use of materials that are non-toxic, ethical and sustainable;
• Considers the environment in design, construction and operation;
• Provides a design that enables adaptation to a changing environment; and
• Considers the occupants’ quality of life in design, construction and operation.

Finally, there’s the struggling yet more market-based “greenbuilding” stamp of approval from the California Building Industry Association (CBIA). It’s better than the rest but still counterintuitive to the state goal of increasing California’s housing supply.

Of course, none of these certifications are necessary. If a building tenant – homebuyer or renter – wants solar heating they’re going to pay for it. If they don’t want it they won’t pay. If government insists, its priorities are upside down. If NIMBYs want solar, they don’t really want the popular source of renewable energy – they simply want to price you out of the neighborhood.

But, the transparency of this relatively new WELL-Health certification is glaring. First, it borrows mightily from the other certifications – on air and water quality and energy efficiency, for example – an obvious redundancy. Secondly, the WELL Health public-relations campaign employs well-known liberal celebrities like Jennifer Lopez and Robert De Niro who deliver unconvincing messages.

Thirdly, IBWI – using the same sort of COVID-19 scare tactics employed by many in government and mainstream media – implies that unless a building displays a WELL Health decal it’s not safe to enter. Really?! Does that mean if the food served in the cafeteria isn’t nutritious or the building’s “environmental design” isn’t up to par it’s substandard? What if your bank is inside? (Ironically, making a building off limits works against the “Community” element of the certification.)

Fourthly, advocates of the WELL Health certification are blatantly playing the “danger” card. “Look for the WELL Health seal outside and feel more confident about going inside” admonish the WELL Health campaign spokespeople. “Proceed at your own peril,” they seem to be saying.

Finally, the WELL Health initiative is clearly taking advantage of the worldwide corona-virus pandemic. Without it, no one would care about what building they visit. But now, they hang on Michael Jordan’s every word. Frankly, if COVID-19 hadn’t come along, there would be no slick media campaign and the IWBI would have remained dormant, even terminated.

The aforementioned smacks of county health departments enforcing their heavy-handed restaurant ratings. To all of the obedient mask-wearing public: welcome to government control.