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Fitwel: Improving on the Building Certification for Healthy Occupants

| October 1, 2019

by Karin Patriquin

The Fitwel System is a building certification standard launched in 2017 whose original goal was to optimize building occupant health and productivity through targeted improvements to workplace design and policies.

Its increasing popularity and ease of use has led to a number of upgrades and a broader range of building types to include multifamily residential, retail, and community.

A custom scorecard tracks points in 12 sections to determine the level of certification of the building, a 1-star to 3-star rating. Each line within the sections is linked to one or more of seven health impact categories, developed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the General Services Administration (GSA).

The Seven Health Impact Categories

The Fitwel scorecard is made up of strategies, each supporting various health impact categories. These have been carefully chosen to create the most impactful change in the health and well-being of occupants living or working in a building.

The Fitwel Health Impact Categories include:

  1. Impacts Community Health
  2. Reduces Morbidity and Absenteeism
  3. Supports Social Equality for Vulnerable Populations
  4. Instills Feelings of Well-Being
  5. Provides Healthy Food Options
  6. Promotes Occupant Safety
  7. Increases Physical Activity
The 12 Sections of Certification

The Fitwel scorecard also measures health within 12 overarching sections that impact the design and operations of a site and building interior (these vary slightly for multifamily residential and retail).

1. Location – Optimizing WalkScore and public transit access help foster physical activity, social equity, and public health.

2. Building Access – Conducting occupant commuter surveys, providing bicycle parking, and offering occupants monthly transit benefits all support multi-modal access to buildings.

3. Outdoor Spaces – Provisions and policies for outdoor amenities may include walking trails, fruit and vegetable gardens, or outdoor fitness areas.

4. Entrances and Ground Floor – Ground floors can be optimized to promote air quality and health through entryway systems to capture particulates, or proximity of main entrances to public seating, street trees, or public art.

5. Stairs – Stairwells present a convenient way for building occupants to add physical activity to their day, and should be accessible, visible, and well-designed.

6. Indoor Environment – Smoke-free building policies, an asbestos-free interior, and indoor air quality testing reduce risk factors associated with chronic disease, comorbidities, and absenteeism for occupants.

7. Workspaces – Health-supportive workspaces may include daylight, views, operable shading, active workstations, and individualized thermal control.

8. Shared Spaces – Shared spaces (lactation, fitness, or quiet rooms) and shared programs (crop share drop-off or health programming) promote physical activity and mental rejuvenation.

9. Water Supply – A universally-accessible water supply on every floor helps reduce consumption of less healthy alternatives.

10. Prepared Food Retail – Food retail can have a positive impact through established standards and “choice architecture” for healthy food and beverage options.

11. Vending Machines and Snack Bars – Pricing incentives for healthy snacks can reverse the negative health impacts of traditional vending machines.

12. Emergency Procedures – A comprehensive Emergency Preparedness Plan and certified first responders can improve coordination and timeliness of emergency response.

Recent Changes

The latest version, Fitwel 2.1, was launched on June 3 to include a new construction vs. existing construction pathway, newly developed Retail and Community scorecards, and edits to the Workplace and Multifamily Residential scorecards.

Expanding on building occupant health, the new Community scorecard emphasizes amenities that create and promote well-being at the neighborhood level, including streets, parks, plazas and social gathering spaces.

The Retail scorecard is very similar to that of the Workplace, is organized into similar categories, and recognizes that occupants in retail settings face similar challenges and opportunities.

Trying it on for Size

The easiest way to see if this certificate is right for your organization is to try it. Scorecards are available for free on Fitwel’s user-friendly website. Create a benchmark, see how your organization fares now in all categories, then see what you can do to improve building and occupant health by finding actionable items.

Karin Patriquin

Karin Patriquin is a Fitwel ambassador and president of Patriquin Architects in New Haven, Conn.

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