A new tool that will help employers create healthier workplaces is getting off the ground.
Fitwel is a health and wellness standard for buildings developed by the CDC, the General Services Administration (the government agency that runs federal office buildings). After testing it in government facilities, it was released to the public a few months ago, with the help of a New York City nonprofit, the Center for Active Design. It’s aimed at helping employers evaluate all the design factors that go into creating a healthy workplace, from proximity to public transit, bike parking, indoor air quality, healthy food access, and stairwell design.
As more and more employers take an active interest in their employees’ health, Fitwel is designed to use the latest scientific research to create a checklist and scorecard to help them evaluate where they are doing well and how they can do better.
The first company to employ the standard, the global architecture firm Perkins+Will, has now committed to using it at all of its North American offices. They also say they will start working with clients who are interested in using the standard, as well.
"All of our clients are looking at that—retaining talent, motivating people. All the things that make any organization thrive or operate in a more high-performance way are rooted in human well-being," says Perkins+Will CEO Phil Harrison. "It seems like more and more of our design projects are starting with that. Not 'we want 100,000 square feet and we want to spend $50 million dollars.' . . . It starts with ‘we want our people to have these experiences.’"
At its own offices, where the certification will roll out at six facilities this year, Harrison expects they’ll score "reasonably well." (Buildings get one to three stars.) But he believes it will help them focus on operational aspects of wellness that architects tend to pay less attention to, like access to fresh vegetables or perhaps having a garden inside or outside of the building.
Fitwell adds to a number of standards that focus on healthy buildings, including LEED’s Green Buildings, the Living Building Challenge, or the Well Building Standard. Fitwel is solely focused on human health and aims to be much simpler and quicker for building managers to use. It is also based on the latest research. "The fact that it does have the science behind it and the evidence behind it is really important to us," says Paula McEvoy, co-director of Perkins+Will’s Sustainable Design Initiative.
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