16.5 Certification Systems: Fitwel

Author: Safa Zamani

ABSTRACT: Fitwel is a high-impact Green Building certification launched in 2016. It focuses on creating a healthier workplace environment and productivity. It is a well-tested approach Developed by the US Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the General Services Administration (GSA). Fitwel has now joined LEED and WELL in evaluating health-affecting aspects of the built environment to improve user and employee well-being.

Figure 1 | Image Source: Health Impact Categories

MAIN

Fitwell has many evidence-based design strategies that enhance building environments by addressing a broad range of health behaviours and risks. All Fitwell’s strategies are voluntary and do not include any individual prerequisites. Fitwell has seven major health impact categories which impact community health, reduces mobility and absenteeism, supports social equality for vulnerable population, instills feelings of well-being, provides healthy food options, promotes occupant safety, and increases physical activity (Figure 1). Each Fitwell strategy is linked by evidence to at least one of the seven Fitwel health impact categories. The Fitwell system can be used in a variety of settings, including offices, classrooms, health centers, and residential buildings, and is accessible through a well-designed and user-friendly digital portal. Using a scorecard created by the CDC, Fitwel evaluates an environment’s performance across 12 categories and provides 63 design and functional solutions to enhance a building’s performance.

Figure 2 | Image Source: The 12 Sections

Each of the sections are weighted and each of the strategies are associated with a unique point allocation based on scientific evidence that has an impact on occupant health (Figure 2). Shared space includes strategies such as a regular bathroom cleaning schedule or signs within the restroom to wash your hands. Indoor environments include a strategy for a tobacco free building policy. Location encouraged the use of local transit in order to decrease car use. Prepared food areas encourage healthy food choices. Stairs include having a stairwell that is accessible to all occupants. Outdoor spaces include outdoor amenities. Entrances and ground floors would include having signs that would publicize a tobacco free building site. Emergency preparedness would include having emergency equipment throughout the building. Work spaces would include having a view of nature. Vending machines and snack bars would also encourage healthy food choices. Water supply would include having a refillable water station on every floor of the building. Building access would include access to pedestrian routes or public transportation.

Users can use the scorecard as a reference point without obtaining certification, or they can improve their results by submitting evidence-based documents and photographs to justify certification. Applicants who are committed to creating healthy environments should be able to easily meet the scorecard requirements as they are fairly simple. Those that have completed a Fitwel course, passed a mandatory exam, and are experienced in promoting a safe workplace environment through the implementation and dissemination of Fitwel strategies are recognized as Fitwel Ambassadors.

Figure 3 | Image Source: Fitwel Rating

Fitwel certification process uses an assigned numerical score to evaluate each submission (Figure 3).

  • 1-star rating – 90-104 points are required.
  • 2-star rating – 105-124 points are required.
  • 3-star rating – 125 to a maximum of 144 points are required .

Fitwel will provide a report for feedback, explanations, and new demands until a project has been registered and the paperwork has been uploaded. It will take up to 12 weeks to complete the whole process and receive final certification with a star ranking. There are no prerequisites or on-site verification, and the certification is valid for three years.

Fitwel and WELL focuses on the building environment and the user experience whereas LEED focuses on building infrastructure. The Fitwel method is simpler, less costly, open, intuitive, and profoundly more realistic compared to WELL which drives higher levels of efficiency and comparative differentiation through a more complicated process at a higher price point. Fitwell is a better option for clients who do not have the financial means to go through the whole WELL certification process but still want to create healthy environments.

Fitwel’s project costs are very straightforward. It would cost $500 for registration and for certification it would cost around $5,500-$10,000 depending on the size range of the project. Unlike WELL, the Fitwel process is intended to enable building owners, corporate customers, or tenants to obtain certification without the assistance of a consultant.

The Fitwel framework is now administered in over 35 countries by the Center for Active Design (CfAD). The health of building occupants is a big concern as employees account for about 90% of company operational expenses and more than 120 million people in the US spend on average 8.1 hours per day working in a building. Pursuing Fitwel certification indicates that your organization prioritizes wellness, which stimulates trust and respect within the employees, residents and investors. The interconnected system approach uses scientific evidence as a foundation to optimize health within a building or community in a sustainable way. Certification not only leads to more safe work conditions, but it also raises the property’s market value.

RESOURCES:

Fitwel is the World’s Leading Certification System. fitwel.org. (n.d.). https://www.fitwel.org/.

Fitwel® Certification Services. UL. (n.d.). https://www.ul.com/services/fitwel-certification-services.

ULdialogue. (2020, February 24). What is Fitwel Certification? YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=etoZMivl9WE.

What is Fitwel and Why Should We Care? IA Interior Architects. (2019, December 31). https://interiorarchitects.com/what-is-fitwel-and-why-should-we-care/.

YouTube. (2019, September 10). Introduction to Fitwel Certifications & Reporting Best Practices | Goby. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R0iTrDaa6UE.

BIOGRAPHY          

Safa Zamani is a third-year student at Ryerson School of Interior Design (RSID). Safa’s vision is to widen the scope for new insights into the design of significant spaces. She enjoys working with 3D modelling software as it allows designers and end-users to envision space needs and enhance the productivity and precision of drawings. Currently, Safa is working on expanding her knowledge on sustainability. She aims to improve user well-being by incorporating sustainable practices in the design of future interiors.

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