We are in the midst of a wellness revolution.
With employees expressing a desire for healthy environments, there is a pressing need to measure wellness in the workplace quantitatively. We know that Americans spend on average over 90% of their time indoors, so designing to support the health and well-being of building occupants is imperative.
Fitwel is an evidence-based, low-cost building certification developed to help businesses improve health and wellness, productivity, and social equity. Backed and led by the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the General Services Administration (GSA), and operated by the Center for Active Design (CfAD), Fitwel provides companies with an achievable, cost-effective solution to certifying your workplace.
My colleague Kate Kerbel recently highlighted Fitwel’s measurable health and wellness benefits. To re-cap, Fitwel has seven unique impact categories used to evaluate spaces for certification.
A building or space can achieve a one-, two-, or three-star rating. The more points you earn, the higher the rating. Point values are based on the impact of the strategy and the strength of the evidence.
As a Fitwel Ambassador, I led the documentation and certification of our Minneapolis studio, which was Perkins+Will’s first office to achieve Fitwel certification. Based on my experience, here are 10 tips on navigating Fitwel.
1. Consider the building and location when searching for a new workplace.
If you are in the position to buy or lease a new space, note that the building design and location—specifically access and entrances, shared spaces, and outdoor spaces—will have a significant impact on your score. For example, the location category contains a strategy for walk score, or the walkability of a particular location. If you choose a building that is not near transit, restaurants, or stores, you will not achieve optimal points for this strategy.
2. Accessible and visible stairwells are important in multi-level spaces.
Fitwel certification has a strong emphasis on active design. As a result, the stairwell category is one of the categories with the most points. Fortunately, many of our clients are interested in connecting stairs for their ability to promote movement, accessibility, and inter-floor collaboration. If you are a single level tenant, you can choose “not applicable” without penalty.
3. Nearby healthy food choices are key.
The cafeterias and prepared food retail category is the highest points category in the entire Fitwel certification. These strategies are driven by policies put in place by your company, such as offering healthy food and beverage standards, incentivizing healthy food selection, and providing access to free water.
4. Choosing “non applicable” does not penalize you.
If your building or space does not include or have access to certain checklist items, choosing “not applicable” will not penalize you and you will obtain the points. Our Minneapolis office encountered this in the stairwell category, we occupy only one level and do not have internal stairs, but we still received the points by selecting “not applicable.”
5. A fully equipped lactation room earns the highest possible points out of all the strategies.
Incorporating a lactation room in your space is an important strategy to consider early in planning and design. Often lactation rooms are not fully equipped with a sink and a refrigerator, which will result in missed Fitwel points and disappointed new moms! These rooms receive the highest point value of all strategies because they have an impact on both the mother and child.
6. Amenities are worth the investment.
In many industries, amenities are no longer rarified benefits. Employees across all generations expect spaces that help elevate their workday such as cafes, fitness centers, and meditation rooms. Fitwel points for these spaces reflect their importance for building occupants’ mental and physical well-being.
7. Fitwel’s online dashboard is user friendly.
I can tell you from first-hand experience that Fitwel’s interface is intuitive and smart. My favorite feature is the areas of opportunity list, which sorts unearned credits by value to show the user how to improve their star rating.
8. Carefully read the documentation requirements.
If you do not submit all requested information, the CfAD will follow up and ask for any missing documentation. Many of the Fitwel strategies require photographs for documentation in addition to questions that require calculations, floor or site plans, and code compliance documentation. It is also important to take high quality photographs and orient them correctly when submitting.
9. LEED© documentation is acceptable for Fitwel.
Since Fitwel and LEED requirements for bike storage and shower strategies are the same, LEED documentation can be used for Fitwel certification. Fitwel strives to make its process simple, so there is no need to recreate documentation.
10. Policy and design both influence your Fitwel score.
Fitwel strategies are not solely design features; make sure to connect with knowledgeable professionals to gather correct policy information. Helpful departmental staff may include human resources, office management, facility, or building management. Fitwel also provides an opportunity to help revitalize your current office policies and/or insights. For example, we did not have an occupant commute survey in place, but as a result of our Fitwel certification process, we conducted a survey and will continue doing so annually. Completing Fitwel certification is an excellent time to review internal policy and design, and most importantly respond with improvements.
If you have any questions, want to learn more, or you are looking to certify your building or workplace feel free to reach out to me.