You’ve probably heard of LEED Certification and maybe even the WELL Building Standard, but there’s a new kid on the block…Fitwel®. Originally intended to “transform New York City’s groundbreaking Active Design program into an international movement,” Mayor Michael Bloomberg launched the Center for Active Design (CfAD) in 2011. CfAD developed Fitwel as a building standard promoting health, with the Center for Disease Control and Prevention as their research and evaluation partner. CfAD has since expanded to work in over 180 countries worldwide and was selected by the federal government to be the licensed operator of the Fitwel program.

Elements of the Fitwel Certification

Eligibility for Fitwel Certification is evaluated by the Workplace Scorecard. There are two different Fitwel Scorecards, one for the workplace and another for multifamily residential properties. This article will focus on the Scorecard relating to the workplace, but the Multifamily Residential Scorecard is very similar, replacing the 7th Strategy, “Workspaces,” with “Dwellings.” This grading scale gives each building/project a score out of 144 points based on the following twelve Strategies:

1. Location


The first Strategy, Location, is primarily centered around distance to nearby amenities such as public transit and grocery stores. Walk Score® plays into this, measuring the “walkability” of an address. A building’s walk score can range from 0-100, 0 being the most car-dependent (a car is required for all errands) and 100 being the least car-dependent (amenities are less than .25 miles away and errands do not require a car).

2. Building Access

The Building Access Strategy requires a direct pedestrian route from public transit to the building entrance. It also explores the availability of secure and covered bicycle parking near the entrance and priority parking for carpool vehicles.

3. Outdoor Spaces

As the name suggests, this Strategy is about providing an accessible outdoor space, including permanent fitness equipment and a walking trail of at least .25 miles in length. This Strategy also addresses the presence of an Integrated Pest Management Plan.

4. Entrances & Ground Floor

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A Fitwell Certified entrance and ground floor would have signage to promote a tobacco-free environment and “context-appropriate lighting.” Additionally, at least one building entrance should be oriented toward the outdoor pedestrian route.

5. Stairwells

For multi-level buildings, Fitwel prioritizes stairwells over escalators and elevators. If both are present, the stairwell should be equally, if not more, visible from the main entrance than an escalator or elevator. Also, a stairwell must be accessible to the building’s regular occupants providing a means to get to all relevant floors.

6. Indoor Environments

This Strategy concerns air quality, a facet of the indoor environment where plants can play a big role. Though asbestos is not entirely banned in this country, various federal and state regulations have been put in place to protect people from the associated health risks. One of the Fitwel Certification elements with the highest number of associated points (4.66) is verification of an asbestos-free environment. This strategy also recommends putting in place an Indoor Air Quality Policy.

7. Workspaces

Biophilia has emerged at the forefront of workplace design, stressing the importance of access to natural light and views of nature. Incorporating these elements can increase productivity and well-being, while reducing stress and sickness-related absence. Access to natural light and views of nature will get a project a good Fitwel score for this Strategy.

8. Shared Spaces

This Strategy promotes regular cleaning schedules for shared spaces, break rooms that are accessible to all regular building occupants, and the availability of rooms for activities such as lactation and exercise.

9. Water Supply

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Fitwel also takes note of water sources within the building. In order to attain the points for this section, the building must have at least one water source on each “relevant” floor that is ADA-compliant. At least one water source on each floor must also have water bottle refilling capabilities.

10. Food Services

Where food services are present, companies should promote a healthy standard for food and beverage consumption. Furthermore, there must be access to free water.

11. Vending Machines + Snack Bars

This Strategy, much like Food Services, rewards the availability of healthy choices. Fitwel suggests price incentives for healthier options.

12. Emergency Procedures

Lastly, the Emergency Procedures Strategy focuses on plans and provisions for emergencies. Such provisions include the creation and maintenance of an emergency equipment database and the presence of regularly tested Automated External Defibrillators (AEDs) on each floor.


The Fitwel Certification Process

The process of achieving Fitwel Certification can take 12 or more weeks and requires the following steps:

1. Register

Registering a project requires creating a company account in the Fitwel Portal and entering basic information about said project.

2. Evaluate

In this step, the company must determine which Scorecard fits its project and then assess how it measures up against the aforementioned Fitwel Strategies.

3. Benchmark

Benchmarking allows for better monitoring over a span of time. Archiving past responses to the Strategies enables comparison of improvement over time.

4. Submit

Documentation must be submitted to show compliance with each of the Fitwel Strategies.

5. Review

Fitwel’s Certification Team will review the submission and return comments for response by the project team. The project team may then submit one round of responses for final review by the Certification Team.

6. Certification

The Certification Team will score the project with a numerical value and corresponding Star Rating. A score of 125+ will receive 3 stars, a score of 91-105 will receive 2 stars, and a score of 1-90 will receive 1 star. Once a Fitwel Certification has been issued, it is valid for three years. Project teams may submit their projects for recertification for a reduced rate if filed within three years from initial certification.

Fitwel Ambassador Program

Fitwel Ambassadors are individuals that play an integral part in the movement of healthy building development. Ambassadors must complete the Ambassador Course, which gives them significant training in the connection between health and design. They can then more effectively incorporate Fitwel Strategies into their work. Ambius Sales and Design Consultants, Dawn Zeek and Vanessa Lomeli of our Anaheim, CA district are Fitwel Ambassadors. Ambius Anaheim’s Chris Karl, Design Specialist, is also a Fitwell Ambassador.

“Being a Fitwell Ambassador gives me the substantiated knowledge to bring biophilia into the lives of people’s workplaces and lives,” says Karl.

Dawn Zeek speaks to working with clients to develop healthy spaces. “It’s exciting to work with our customers that are eager to provide an enhanced space for their employees, clients, and tenants that focuses on their wellbeing. It gives us a consultative approach with our clients to achieve their goals of enhancing their space outside of our normal lines of business of plants and scenting.”

As the experts in interior landscapes, Ambius can help your business achieve Fitwel Certification. Creating environments that promote well-being is a core piece of what we do, and our design specialists can help craft the perfect solution for your particular space. Contact us today to see how Ambius can transform your interior landscape.