In a bold move solidifying its commitment to evidence-based, healthier workplace design, global architecture and design firm Perkins+Will has become the first company to pursue—with the intent to achieve—Fitwel certification for all of its North American offices. The firm has announced that its Atlanta, Chicago, Minneapolis, New York, San Francisco, and Vancouver offices will become Fitwel certified before the end of 2016. The rest of the company’s North American offices, including Boston, Los Angeles, Seattle, Toronto, and Washington D.C., will certify in 2017 and 2018.
Fitwel, a new evidence-based design standard developed by the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), enables positive impacts on building occupant health and productivity through improvements to workplace design and policies. Fitwel certification assesses building and workplace features—like the design of stairwells and outdoor spaces, proximity to public transit and fitness facilities, indoor air quality, and healthy food standards—against a baseline of criteria that create a health-promoting environment. It is administered by the Center for Active Design (CfAD).
“Increasingly, research is showing that the design of our built environment is linked to occupant health and wellness. This includes everything from access to healthy foods, physical activity and mobility, and protection from common indoor pollutants,” says Perkins+Will CEO Phil Harrison. “At Perkins+Will, we take this very seriously—not only for our own staff, but also for our clients. We hope that by achieving Fitwel certification for our own offices, we will raise the industry bar while demonstrating to our clients that we proudly practice what we preach.”
Fitwel uses a weighted scoring system to assess the healthfulness of a workplace. It evaluates a space’s performance in seven health impact categories: healthy food options, occupant safety, physical activity, social equality, well-being, reduction of morbidity and absenteeism, and community health. Depending on the results, a workplace can achieve one, two, or three certification stars, with three stars representing the highest score. Fitwel then provides strategies to help building managers improve their scores—and, by extension, the healthfulness of their workplace.
In office environments, the expected improvements in employee wellness may result in lower health care costs, lower rates of absenteeism, and increased revenue from enhanced employee performance.
“Fitwel certification responds to the growing demand for recognition of healthier buildings and workplaces, and serves as a market differentiator to retain and attract tenants and future employees,” says Joanna Frank, executive director of CfAD. “That Perkins+Will is adopting the standard and committing to certifying its various offices is a testament to the firm’s role as an industry trailblazer.”
Of the 89 public buildings that piloted Fitwel over its five-year development period, two of them—the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Building 106 and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Environmental Health—were designed by Perkins+Will. Both earned three certification stars. Of the 89 buildings piloted, 35 did not receive certification, 26 earned one certification star, 22 earned two stars, and six earned three stars. Ninety-seven percent of pilot study participants reported that Fitwel’s digital tool is easy to use, and 84 percent reported that they now have a good or very good idea of how their buildings support healthy behaviours.