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healthy buildings

I'm happy to report that the healthy building movement is alive and well in the U.S. and abroad.

At Neocon last week -- the largest commercial furniture exposition outside of Orgatec in Germany -- everyone was talking about healthy workplaces.

Which is relevant to healthcare design since hospitals and clinics are workplaces, too. And if there's any building type that should be healthy, it's a hospital.

Fitwel is Off and Running

Fitwel, a relatively new certification system for optimizing building design and operations to improve health and productivity, is also thriving. Created as a joint initiative led by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the General Services Administration (GSA), Fitwel has engaged with 600 companies in 20 countries, with 400 projects certified or in progress since its launch in February 2017.

Currently, the focus is on workplace and multi-family residential buildings. The 55+ strategies for improvement in 12 categories were generated by an expert analysis of over 3,000 academic research studies.

What About Healthy Hospitals?

When I asked Reena Agarwal, Founding Chief Operating Officer at the Center for Active Design (which operates the Fitwel program) at her presentation at Neocon if there were any hospitals that had been certified, she said that most of the projects are corporate offices. A primary reason for this is that the GSA buildings served as the beta testers.

With all the research that's available linking the design of hospital environments to outcomes, I would think healthcare would be a natural next step for Fitwel.

Perhaps it could even partner with The Center for Health Design to develop that sector. The Facility Guidelines Institute should also be engaging with Fitwel for the "beyond fundamentals" of its next standards revision.

Not the Only Game in Town

The International WELL Building Institute also has a healthy buildings certification program, which launched in 2014. A total of 898 projects encompassing over 170 million square feet are applying WELL across 34 countries.

And it also has a professional accreditation program for individuals.

WELL is similar to Fitwel, but there are differences.

According to architect Jane Rohde, the high-level difference is that WELL is primarily medically driven, while Fitwel is focused on public health issues. (Read more about the differences in Rohde's post published recently on the Vinyl Institute's blog.)

Where Do Products Fit In?

Agarwal also said that many of the 45,000 products in the Underwriter's Laboratory SPOT database are eligible for Fitwel credits. A quick check on the website indicates that this is also true of the WELL program.

And you may be wondering about where the U.S. Green Building Council's LEED certification program fits into all this.  LEED also promotes healthy buildings, but from a sustainable perspective.

Fitwel and WELL take it a step further to encompass everything in workplace environments that impact health and well-being.

I expect this trend to continue and can't wait to see the first Fitwel Star rated hospital.

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Dr. Wayne Ruga

6 years ago

Sara - The title of this blog is a crucial question - and the answer is an obvious one. Of course hospitals should be healthy buildings - in fact, they should be the healthiest buildings. So, given all we know about this subject, and the death toll to innocent individuals from regularly occurring never events that are intolerable in other industries (like aviation) - why is it necessary to even raise this question? I would argue that the answer to it lies in healthcare organizational leadership that does a great job on many levels, but not all the levels that elevate the status of overall health and wellbeing - for the patients, the staff, and/or the community. If they did, your question would be irrelevant - right?

Sara Marberry

6 years ago

Thanks for your comment, Wayne! Even though the answer is obvious, I think it is necessary to raise this question to the healthcare and design community because even though there have been major strides in this area, all hospitals are not healthy buildings. And none of them are Fitwel or WELL Building certified. I truly hope that someday this question will become irrelevant, as more healthcare leaders realize the benefits and lead the charge.

Sara Marberry_013-Retouched-New copy

What's my story? I'm a healthcare and senior living design knowledge expert who writes and speaks frequently about trends and issues affecting these two industries. I'm also a strategic marketing consultant and content creator, working with companies and organizations who want to improve the quality of healthcare and senior living through the design of the physical environment. You can reach me at .

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