A Guide to Fitwel Certification
Fitwel is a healthy building certification system aimed at creating facilities that improve the health and well-being of occupants. If you’ve already read our blog post Fitwel: Building Health for All, this post will serve as a guide to Fitwel certification, including answering the following questions:
- What does the certification process look like? How long does it take?
- What is the role of a Fitwel consultant? Do I need a consultant?
- Are there some easy credits to achieve?
- What are some challenges my project may encounter?
What does the certification process look like?
To get Fitwel certified, a building must first be registered with the Fitwel program. Once registered, a Fitwel Ambassador, sustainability consultant (like SSR), or another sustainability champion for the project will assess the building against a Fitwel scorecard. The scorecard and required documentation are uploaded and reviewed by Fitwel’s Certification Team. After review, the building is given a numerical score and associated Star Rating. Buildings need to be recertified every three years.
1-Star: 90-104 Points
2-Star: 105-124 Points
3-Star: 125-144 Points
Do I need a Fitwel consultant?
For a new construction building, Fitwel considerations can begin in early design and influence decisions throughout the design and construction process. If you know that you’ll be seeking Fitwel certification, we recommend involving a consultant early in the design phase. An experienced consultant can work with the project’s architectural and engineering teams to incorporate sustainability and occupant well-being criteria into the initial design and take advantage of other strategies being implemented. Examples of this could include:
- Safety measures such as stair safety & entrance/exit lighting
- Adding glass in the doors to stairwells that are already included in the project design.
- Shared spaces that already part of desired programming (break rooms, quiet rooms, etc.)
- Adding AEDs to all floors instead of just meeting code minimums.
Guided by a scorecard, the consultant will identify Fitwel strategies that have been implemented into the design of the building and note the appropriate number of points earned for each strategy based on the facility specifics. There are no mandatory credits that must be achieved, rather certification is achieved based on the number of points accumulated from a potential total of 144. Meeting the minimum threshold of 90 points for base-level (one-star) certification is the only requirement and can be achieved through any combination of strategies.
A Fitwel consultant will work with multiple stakeholders throughout the design and operational phases to ensure all credits are accounted for. This often includes the architect, interior designer, MEP engineers, building owner, tenant’s human resources, and owner’s representative responsible for vendor contracts for food service, janitorial, and pest management. A landscape architect and civil engineer may also be involved when developing enhanced outdoor environments to meet credit criteria.
Your Fitwel consultant will ensure that all documentation is compiled and submitted for review after project completion. Fitwel offers a 16-week review timeline for general users. During this time, the owner and project team can respond to initial review comments prior to a final review. For project teams that include an individual that is a certified Fitwel Ambassador (a resource SSR has on staff), or a company that is registered as a Fitwel Champion, the review process is expedited to 12 weeks.
I’m interested in having my building Fitwel certified, what are some easy points I can earn?
Every project is unique, and certification will be dependent on the strategies implemented into the building’s design and operations. We’ve found some common strategies that apply to most buildings and can help accumulate points to certification.
- Projects located on sites with well-established pedestrian and transit infrastructure are set up well to achieve certification relative to those in more rural or less connected areas. A project can achieve about 20% of the required points for One-Star Certification just by being in a walkable area with moderate access to transit.
- For multi-story buildings, the promotion of stair use in the building through stair design, location, visibility, and signage are easy ways to accumulate points.
- Prohibiting smoke and tobacco use indoors and outdoors.
- Supplying water bottle filling stations at each regularly occupied floor.
- Installing accessible automated external defibrillators (AED) at each regularly occupied floor.
What are some shared challenges or pitfalls to discuss early on?
In general, the earlier Fitwel or any sustainability certification program is incorporated into design discussions, the better. Many design and construction team members may not be familiar with Fitwel and its requirements, so it is important to discuss the feasibility of each credit being pursued early in the design process and make sure everyone is on the same page. While incorporating health and wellness criteria can have cost implications if brought on later in design, these can often be avoided by simply having the right conversations with the right people during the concept and programming phase.
What value does SSR bring to this process?
Through our Building Optimization and Sustainability (BOS) team, SSR has experienced consultants on staff that can facilitate and lead the Fitwel certification process. The BOS team also works with our colleagues in other departments to educate them on healthy-building design principles to incorporate into other projects where practical, regardless of certification status. Our team is viewed as leaders in green building certification and has helped hundreds of facilities achieve their certification goals.
Fitwel has a vision for a healthier future where every building is enhanced to support the well-being of its occupants. If this aligns with your goals and vision for your office space, reach out today for more information on the program, the benefits of certification, and how to get started. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.