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November 20, 2017

Fitwel introduces residential standard for buildings that help make you fitter and healthier

Years ago, building science expert Joseph Lstiburek complained about the LEED certification system:

The problem? LEED gives “green” points for construction factors and building features that have more to do with “feel good” aesthetics than energy conservation. “A bike rack? You get a green point for a bike rack?” he said incredulously, pointing out that as important as that might be to some people, it has nothing to do with building performance.

Joe thought LEED should be about building performance, period. I have gone the other way and complained about the PassiveHouse standard because it was just about building performance and I thought it should be more holistic. I used to think that there should be one standard, like one ring, to rule them all (and even called it the Elrond Standard) but in fact the trend seems to be going the other way, towards what I would call “modular” plug-in standards. Some cover energy and thermal comfort, (like PassiveHouse) some covering health (like Well); there is a new one for Resilience (RELi) and now, there is one for fitness called Fitwel.

It has actually been around for a while for commercial projects, but just released a new version for multifamily residential. It’s run by The Center for Active Design (CfAD), an organization originally started by Mayor Bloomberg of New York City in 2013, who noted that “physical activity and healthy eating are the two most important factors in reducing obesity.” Since then new research as shown how important a little bit of exercise is in extending our lives. Fitness and exercise should be built into our lives, and the design of our cities and buildings.

Fitwel certified buildings are designed to encourage healthy living. It is a points based system that is easy to understand; Location matters a lot, with points for Walkscore, Access to healthy ways of transport matter, with short and long term bike parking and good transit stops. There are points for providing space for a farmers market or a fruit and vegetable gardens.

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