What is Fitwel?

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Fitwel is a building rating system for commercial interiors and both multi-tenant and single-tenant existing buildings that provides guidelines on how to design and operate healthier buildings.  Fitwel can also be used as a roadmap to aid the design of new buildings being constructed.  As green building consultants, we are always tapping into the industry to get a feel for what is trending, and we have heard a lot of buzz about this new rating system for two main reasons:

  • Health and wellness is becoming increasingly more important to people and is one of the next major trends in green building. McKinsey & Company has even predicted that “wellness” it is the next trillion-dollar industry.
  • Fitwel is cheaper than the alternative, the WELL Building Standard.

Created as a joint initiative led by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) together with the General Services Administration (GSA), Fitwel provides guidelines for designing, constructing, and operating healthier buildings.  The Center for Active Design (CfAD) is the operator of Fitwel and responsible for the third-party certification.

Fitwel Criteria

One of the biggest pros of Fitwel is that there are no “prerequisites” or requirements that would prevent a building from being eligible to earn a Fitwel certification.  There are a minimum number of optional points that need to be earned (90 out of 144 possible), but no Fitwel criteria that “has to” be pursued.

There are 63 evidence-backed strategies that have proven to increase the health and well-being of building occupants which can be grouped into the following 12 categories:

  • Building Access
  • Outdoor Spaces
  • Entrances + Ground Floor
  • Stairwells
  • Indoor Environments
  • Workspaces
  • Shared Spaces
  • Water Supplyfitwel icons, fitwel criteria, fitwel strategies, fitwel concepts, fitwel consulting, fitwel certification
  • Cafeterias + Prepared Food Retail
  • Vending Machines + Snack Bars
  • Emergency Procedures

 Here are Fitwel’s Seven (7) Health Impact Categories:

  • Impacts Community Health
  • Reduces Morbity + Abesenteeism
  • Supports Social Equality for Vulnerable Populations
  • Increases Physical Activity
  • Promotes Occupant Safety
  • Provides Healthy Food Options
  • Instills Feelings of Well-Being

Fitwel Scoring

Fitwel certifications are given either 1, 2, or 3 stars based on the number of points they earn.  Here is a breakdown of the scoring:

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Two-stars (105-124 points)

Three-stars (125-144 points)

Points are given to each of the Fitwel strategies based on a combination of two things: one being how big of an impact a strategy has on health and wellness and the other being how much evidence there is to prove the correlation between the strategy and improved health and wellness.  For example, in the Workspaces category, a building can earn 3.33 points if it provides a majority of the building workspaces with views of nature, but only 0.33 points for providing operable shading in tenant spaces.  This is likely because there are a lot more studies about how views to nature can increase the well-being, productivity, and mood of workers than there are studies and evidence about providing operable shading in tenant spaces.

Fitwel Scorecard

Here’s a link to download the Fitwel Scorecard.  After you enter your information, two links should appear so that you can download the scorecard in either pdf and/or excel format.

If you are just interested in a quick look at the strategies behind Fitwel and not the actual scorecard, here is a short breakdown/summary of the strategies/concepts:

  • Location
    • Walkscore (the higher the Walkscore, the more points you earn). Here’s a link to learn more about your Walkscore
    • Public transit stop within ½ mile or 800 meters of building entrance
  • Building Access
    • Provide a direct, accessible pedestrian route to public transit
    • Conduct annual commuter survey to gauge need for increasing bicycles/carpools
    • Provide secure and covered bicycle parking within 100 feet or 30m of entrance for 5% of regular building occupants
    • Provide showers with lockers for 1% of building occupants
    • If parking is provided, charge fair market value for the parking in an effort to reduce single-occupancy vehicle (SOV) travel
  • Outdoor Spaces
    • Provide an outdoor space amenity that is accessible to all employees
    • Provide a walking trail of at least ¼ mile or 400m
    • Provide fitness equipment in outdoor spaces accessible to all employees
    • Provide a restorative garden amenity accessible to all employees
    • Offer on-site weekly sale of produce or establish a farmers market in a publicly accessible location
    • Support an on-site fruit and vegetable garden accessible to all employees
    • Establish and adopt an Integrated Pest Management Plan
    • Provide context-appropriate lighting at all pathways and parking areas
    • Adopt smoke-free policy for all outdoor spaces
  • Entrances + Ground Floor
    • Provide permanent signage at all building entrances publicizing a smoke-free building and site
    • Locate at least one additional building entrance, other than the main entrance, oriented towards pedestrian traffic
    • Locate the main entrance oriented towards pedestrian traffic
    • Provide context-appropriate lighting at all building entrances to ensure safe entry and exit
    • Provide at least one publicly accessible use (ie library, retail store, restaurant, coffee shop, or ATM) on the ground floor to encourage pedestrian activity
    • Provide a permanently dedicated display advertising amenities within walking distance of the building
    • Employ permanent entryway systems at exterior entrances to capture dirt and particulates entering the building
  • Stairwells
    • Provide at least one accessible stairwell to regular building occupants that connects all regularly occupied building floors
    • Locate an accessible stairwell equally or more visible than any elevators and/or escalators from the main building entrance
    • Implement best practices in stairwell design to encourage stair use
    • Place permanent point-of-decision prompts promoting stair use at elevator call areas
  • Indoor Environments
    • Adopt and implement a smoke-free building policy for all building occupants
    • Provide an asbestos-free interior or certify that all asbestos has been properly encapsulated
    • Adopt and implement an Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) Policy for the building
    • Adopt and implement a Green Purchasing Policy for the building and require that all new tenant leases and renewals comply
    • Provide separate ventilation in all areas with chemical use or storage
  • Workspaces
    • Provide natural daylight in a majority of workspaces
    • Provide views of nature from a majority of building workspaces
    • Provide operable shading in tenant spaces
    • Provide access to sufficient active workstations for building owner and management staff and provide education material to all new and existing tenants specifying the health benefits of active workstations
  • Shared Spaces
    • Adopt a regular cleaning schedule for bathrooms under building owner control and require that all new leases and renewals adopt a regular cleaning schedule
    • Provide permanent educational signs promoting hand-washing in all bathrooms and owner-controlled spaces
    • Provide common break areas that can accommodate lunch-time activity and that are publicly accessible to all tenants
    • Adopt regular cleaning schedule for refrigerators and freezers in all common and owner-controlled break areas
    • Provide a quiet room that all employees and tenants can use
    • Provide a sufficient number of dedicated lactation rooms available to all tenants that are equipped with a lactation station, refrigerator, and sink
    • Provide a multi-purpose room available to all tenants that can be scheduled for wellness activities or on-site exercise
    • Provide a dedicated exercise room available free of charge to all tenants
    • Provide a dedicated fitness facility available free of charge to all tenants
  • Water Supply
    • Provide at least one ADA compliant water supply on every floor
    • Provide water bottle refilling ability at a minimum of one water supply on every floor and at all owner controlled and publicly accessible water supplies
  • Cafeterias + Prepared Food Retail
    • Require a healthy food and beverage standard at least as rigorous as the applicable Food Service Guidelines for Federal Facilities in all food service leasing agreements
    • Incentivize healthy food selection with choice architecture practices
    • Encourage healthy food choices through pricing incentives
    • Provide access to free water in cafeteria and prepared food retail areas
  • Vending Machines + Snack Bars
    • Require a healthy food and beverage standard at least as rigorous as the applicable Food Service Guidelines for Federal Facilities in all vending machines and snack bars
    • Incentivize healthy food selection with choice architecture practices
    • Encourage healthy food choices through pricing incentives
    • Provide access to free water visible from all vending machines and snack bars
  • Emergency Procedures
    • Create and maintain a database of building emergency equipment and supplies
    • Install an Automated External Defibrillator (AED) on each floor and adopt a regular testing schedule
    • Maintain a schedule for sufficient number of certified first responders (CFRs) to be present at the building during work hours
    • Provide an emergency address notification system in the building

Fitwel Certification Cost

Fitwel is very cost-effective and is one of the most affordable building certifications to earn.  There are two main costs associated with Fitwel (note, that there may be additional capital expenses and/or other soft costs involved):

  • Registration fee is $500
  • Certification fee is $6,000 (in addition to the initial $500 registration fee)

Fitwel Champions

Fitwel Champions are companies that place an emphasis on the importance of health and wellness at their buildings and commit to apply Fitwel to some or all of their portfolio of buildings.

Fitwel Ambassadors

Fitwel Ambassadors are individuals who are early adopters of Fitwel and seek to promote this standard as well as navigate the Fitwel Digitial Certification Tool to help clients track progress and attain Fitwel certifications.

In order to become a Fitwel Ambassador you must take and pass a 50-question exam with a minimum passing score of 80%.

The estimated time to complete the Ambassador course is 4-6 hours. The course consists of a 1-hour training video, access to study material and an online exam. The estimated preparation and completion time is approximately 2-5 hours.  The cost of this course and exam is $250, and you can register to become an ambassador by clicking here.

Fitwel Consulting

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With Fitwel Ambassadors on staff, we would love to help guide you through the entire certification process (start to finish). Alternatively, we are nimble enough to help you with a portion of your certification, if needed.

The first step would simply be for you to reach out to us to let us know you are considering Fitwel, and we can lay out a complimentary certification plan from there. This plan would essentially assess how many stars we think you could earn (1,2, or 3) and exactly how much the certification would cost (your all-in Fitwel cost).  This way, you can more easily decide if a Fitwel certification is right for your building or buildings.

If we can answer any questions or help with this certification plan, please don’t hesitate to let us know.  We have a very friendly and knowledgeable staff eager to assist you.

Our main number is 404-343-383, you can email Michael (michaelc@sigearth.com), or you can leave us a message on our Contact Page.

Fitwel vs WELL Building Standard

Both Fitwel and the WELL Building Standard have their pros and cons.  Both are great programs which will undoubtedly lead to increased occupant health and well-being as well as increased productivity and reduced absenteeism.

So which program is better?  I think that depends on your situation.  In order to help your decision making, let’s list out some of the pros and cons of each (keep in mind that one man’s pros might be another man’s cons, and vice versa):

Fitwel Pros:

  • Less expensive
  • Easier to use
  • No “prerequisites” or strategies that you “must do”
  • Created by the GSA and CDC through many years of research
  • Companies have the option to be a Fitwel Champion

Fitwel Cons:

  • Less-stringent than WELL, meaning that you may not make as many improvements to your building as you would be required with the WELL Building Standard
  • Because Fitwel is a little less-stringent than WELL, the market may not recognize Fitwel to be as valuable or prestigious as a WELL certification

WELL Building Standard Pros:

  • Likely will require you to make more improvements to your building than Fitwel
  • Slightly more comprehensive than Fitwel
  • WELL is currently more popular than Fitwel with projects already registering and certifying all over the world
  • Performance based, requiring an onsite assessment
  • WELL was created by the Mayo Clinic, Delos, and many years of research
  • Requires quality air at your building
  • Requires quality water at your building
  • You can earn a WELL certification for new construction and core and shell builings, whereas Fitwel certification only applies to existing buildings and tenant spaces

WELL Building Standard Cons:

  • More expensive
  • More difficult and more complicated to earn
  • Requires more changes to human resource and company policies (for example, the amount of time given for maternity leave)
  • Will likely require more capital expenditures than Fitwel

In summary, we are big fans of both programs and see them both as great choices for companies and buildings that want to attract better, healthier, happier, more productive, and more satisfied building occupants and/or employees.  If you are on the fence about which program is a better fit for your building, please let us know.  We would love to help you with your decision-making process.

To your health!  Salud!

For assistance at your building, please contact us!