Guide to Well-being with Building Controls
The Fitwel Certification SystemDemands for building occupant health and safety has been on the rise for the past 20 years – with many building rating systems attempting to prescriptively address components of well-being such as light levels, thermal comfort, and indoor air quality – even bike racks. However, in recent years, rating systems specific to the health and well-being of occupants have arrived on scene. In this series, we will highlight the different building rating systems redefining how we measure and track occupant health in the built environment – beginning with Fitwel®.
Introduction to FitwelFitwel was created and tested by the US Centers for Disease Control (CDC) along with US General Services Administration (GSA) as a building certification system for how to design and operate buildings to improve health and productivity. After 5 years and over 3,000 studies by numerous scientists, academic advisors, and real estate professionals, Fitwel was launched in 2017. This program is operated by a 3rd party non-profit agency called CfAD – the Center for Active Design – and continues to work with the CDC to improve the system as new research becomes available.
Standard Requirements and CertificationThe Fitwel Certification System features 7 health impact categories (listed below) and 12 strategies addressing specific spaces in or around the building.
- Impacts Surrounding Community Health
- Reduces Morbidity and Absenteeism
- Supports Social Equity for Vulnerable Populations
- Instills Feelings of Well-Being
- Enhances Access to Healthy Foods
- Promotes Occupant Safety
- Increases Physical Activity
Lighting and Control StrategiesA key component of achieving occupant health is utilizing lighting and controls to create well-lit, visually comfortable spaces. Several Fitwel strategies address lighting and controls.
WindowsFirst is daylighting which is defined in this context as providing natural light and views of nature. Windows are one approach for providing access to light and views but can be challenging to manage due to conduction, convection, and radiation. Heat gains and losses occur with windows and are caused by infiltration/ventilation, conduction, and solar energy. Conduction values of many building products are readily available through ASHRAE and other publications. When choosing windows, consider structural elements that will impact their efficiency such as thermally broken frames, non-metallic spacers between panes, Low-E coatings or low conductivity gases such as argon or krypton between panes.
Fitwel Strategy 7 for Workplaces, 7.1 allows for projects to win points by providing a calculation showing 51% or greater of regularly occupied workstations, common areas, and other regularly occupied areas receive daylight. This can be achieved through any combination of techniques include windows, photosensors, shading, and daylight controls.
Lighting control professionals can take advantage of the availability of natural light to reduce the electric lighting load potentially saving up to 40% energy in daylighting zones. This can help significantly reduce the Energy Usage Index (a simple metric used to evaluate the energy performance of a facility). Many building energy codes require 1 or 2 zones for side lite areas. I would propose going above a beyond Code and incorporate 3 zones of daylight harvesting.