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FITWEL: A Call To Action For Wellness In The Building Industry

Design, Sustainability

We spend a big chunk of our time indoors, whether at work or for leisure. Moreover, it’s been proven that our own health is heavily connected to the spaces we inhabit. With this in mind, the Centers for Disease Control and the General Services Administration developed Fitwel (facility innovations toward wellness environment leadership), which certifies “healthy buildings” that are optimized with occupant health and wellbeing in mind, through policy and design measures. While the WELL Building Standard, a similar and highly regarded system already exists, Fitwel is just as thorough but simpler in methods and workings. Fitwel’s scorecard language is uses less scientific jargon, involves less technical requirements, and even has its own an app.

The Fitwel certification system is straightforward. Candidate buildings must register through a custom scorecard. Once registered, a scorecard is completed so the building can be benchmarked against the values. Once the building is ready for certification, verification documents are uploaded for review. After the review is processed, a rating between 1 and 3 stars is attributed.

The highest possible grade of 3 stars certifies that the building has an elevated number of research-supported design features and policies, which enhance the physical, mental, and social health of its occupants. The scorecard is comprised of 12 sections: Location, Building Access, Outdoor Spaces, Entrances and Ground Floor, Indoor Environment, Vending Machines and Snack Bars, Workspaces, Shared Spaces, Water Supply, Stairwells, Cafeterias and Prepared Food Retail, and Emergency Procedures.

Points are attributed for features such as: easy access to public transportation and retail establishments, accommodations for walkers and bikers, outdoor spaces, abundant natural light and smoke-free environments, non-work rooms such as private and exercise rooms, access to healthy water, and in-house cafeterias.

Fitwel provides 60 strategies for certification, each having a set of points that go with it. Levels are achieved through project stars. For 1 star you need 90 points, 2 stars between 108 – 125 points, and a whopping 3 stars for 126 points and above.

All in all, Fitwel is a great step in easing the certification of “healthy buildings.” In a time when people spend more time indoors and chronic diseases are commonplace, it is paramount developers, designers, and companies to create and inhabit spaces that are good for them and the environment. To learn more about Fitwel, along with other certification programs for more mindful living and design be sure to attend the Hospitality Wellness Expert Panel Series hosted by OBMI on October 9th in Miami.