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  • Writer's pictureDr Lina Engelen

The Case for a Fitwel Certification

Humans and buildings have a strong interrelationship. Whether in Corona isolation (#iso) or not, we spend almost all (more than 90%) of our time in and around buildings. It is therefore inevitable that the buildings will have an effect on our health and wellbeing. Many factors in the buildings, such as access to daylight, opportunities for break time and physical movement, and availability of nutritious food options, will contribute to human health. These factors together have a huge impact on our health and wellbeing, not to mention our productivity. What if we made sure this impact was a positive one, with buildings that enhance our physical, mental and social wellbeing?

Strategies through certifications

During these tumultuous times and going forward, it is more relevant than ever that our buildings support health, safety and wellbeing of people working and living in them.

Building rating tools, also known as certifications, are used to assess and recognise buildings that meet certain requirements or standards. These voluntary rating tools recognise and reward organisations that build and operate buildings according to these standards, in so doing encouraging and incentivising them to push the boundaries on a building level. Sustainability rating systems like LEED and Green Star have played an important role in increasing sustainability of buildings. Now, the public interest in safe and healthy buildings is increasing and the industry is shifting its focus to the impact that buildings have on human health and well-being, hence it’s now time to look at building rating systems that focus on improving human health and productivity outcomes, such as #Fitwel.

Supporting health and productivity

The Fitwel Certification System is a straightforward system to optimise design and operations for improved health and productivity outcomes. To do this, Fitwel offers 70+ evidence-based, targeted strategies in and around the building that support health and wellbeing. Fitwel aims to influence 7 impact categories, see image right. More than 5,000 peer-reviewed studies were considered in the development of Fitwel to ensure the design and operational strategies, and weighting system were based on the strongest empirical evidence. The Fitwel building rating system can be applied to commercial buildings, multifamily residential buildings, as well as community and commercial sites, regardless of a property’s size, location or construction year. There is also a New Construction Pathway that is applicable to projects that are currently in design or under construction.

Currently in over 35 countries worldwide

Fitwel was launched in 2017. Australia got its first certification in 2018. Today, Fitwel is in use in more than 35 countries, impacting over 750,000 people, and this is growing by the day. One benefit of this global reach of a building certification is that it can be understood everywhere and building stocks spanning more than a country, or region can be compared.

A Fitwel certification shows clients, occupants, visitors and the public that your building and organisation support health and wellbeing

There is a range of potential benefits of getting a Fitwel certification, including enhanced brand, increased rental yield and a positive impact on health. As such, a health-promoting building certification can be a possible draw card for tenants or buyers of buildings. For building owners, it can mean higher rental potential and for occupants it can mean a healthier environment to live and work in.

A more equitable rating system

The complexity and cost of certification can be a major barrier for many organisations, especially smaller regional based companies as well as local governments. Fitwel has recognised this and made certification less complicated and less expensive. The Fitwel certification itself costs US$6500 for most common sizes of buildings, with an increase in price with an increase in building size. This makes it a more equitable system than others, allowing large numbers of buildings, not just on the premium sites to be incentivised and get recognition for efforts to make their buildings more health promoting.

A small investment for a large impact

In summary, Fitwel has a number of aspects that makes it really attractive. It is relatively low-cost, it can be applied to a large range of buildings and it focuses on important and evidence-based, but achievable strategies that can be implemented by many. I think it has the opportunity to become an equitable way of rating and comparing buildings, but also to “inspire” to make incremental changes to increase and promote health and wellbeing in and around buildings where we spend most of our time. A Fitwel certification also has a range of potential benefits for your building or organisation, including increased rental yield and brand image.

Interested, but not sure where to start? Contact me! I would love to have a chat about Fitwel, what it means and how to achieve it.


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