By Scott Kriner, Green Metal Consulting
One of the most popular aspects of sustainable buildings is its focus on the well being of the occupants in those buildings. According to the one expert source, there are 120 million employees working in buildings each day in the US. The cost for personnel represents 90% of total business costs. The productivity and health of staff are often affected by the conditions of the office setting.
Last month we showcased a new standard being used in sustainability for assessing the wellness of a building using a rigorous program called WELL. Some that have used the WELL program have criticized its complexity and cost. This month we are showcasing a lower cost and simpler alternative to WELL.
The alternative program is called FITWEL. This program is also targeting the wellness of occupants of sustainable buildings. FITWEL was launched by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the General Services Administration. The scorecard was developed by CDC over 5 years, based on 3,000 research studies related to wellness impacts on workers. It is just now coming out of the beta phase where facility managers used the FITWEL program on 89 existing buildings. FITWEL is operating through the Center for Active Design, a non-profit organization. The overall observation was that FITWEL is cost effective, has no prerequisites and is user-friendly with a web-based interface to the scorecard.
Currently the use of FITWEL is focused on commercial office buildings but a residential version is expected to be launched shortly.
The requirements for FITWEL Program are broken into 12 sections, organized based on how relevant building features are encountered as you approach and enter.
Basic Sections and examples of compliance:
1. Location (walkability/proximity to transit)
2. Building Access (bike storage/showers)
3. Outdoor spaces (Eating areas/healing gardens/exposure to daylight)
4. Entrances and ground floor (anti-smoking signage/indoor air quality)
5. Stairwells (accessible stairs)
6. Indoor Environment (discourages emissions from materials)
7. Workspaces (daylight access/operable shading)
8. Shared Spaces (bathroom cleaning schedule/on-site fitness centers
9. Water Supply (Drinking fountains/water bottle refilling stations
10. Cafeteria and prepared food retail (emphasize fruit & vegetables/calorie reporting)
11. Vending Machines (access to water near point of sale/incentivizing access to free water)
12. Emergency Procedures (survival kits/defibrillators)
The advantages of using the FITWEL program compared to the WELL Standard include affordability. Estimates suggest that the maximum a project would pay for FITWEL is $6,500. The simplicity is another advantage. Those that have used the FITWEL program claim that it is as simple as using an iPad.
Where it differs from WELL is that FITWEL was designed for existing buildings, whereas the WELL Standard is being used mostly for new construction.
On the flip side of the debate some say that there are shortcomings with FITWEL. Some feel that FITWEL is too simple. Compared to WELL or LEED it is much less rigorous which might create pushback from some architectural firms. Some have called FITWEL “WELL Lite”. But the dialogue on this topic between the design community and manufacturers rages on in the field of Wellness within Sustainable buildings. Dialogue is good.