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Fitwel, new rating tool for healthy buildings comes with a difference

The landscape for building rating tools is about to change again thanks to a new tool that rates healthy buildings that has just landed in Australia.

Fitwel is a building rating system that originated in the US as part of New York’s then-Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s active design guidelines, as a way to certify if buildings were conforming to the principles.

Already AMP has sought out a rating for its 33 Alfred Street offices in Sydney which received a 1 star rating from a possible maximum of 3 stars and its newly completed workplace in Brisbane which received a 2 star rating.

According to one of the first Fitwel “ambassadors” in Australia, Dr Lina Engelen, who is also a director of Active Spaces public health researcher and senior research fellow at the University of Sydney, the tool can also be used for new buildings.

Fitwel will join the WELL rating standard, which stormed the property development and design world a few years ago to link the rising concern for health and wellness to the quality of buildings.

The tool has been developed by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the General Services Administration, and is operated by the not-for-profit Center for Active Design.

It was launched in the US in March last year.

Dr Engelen said the work involved more than 3000 peer reviewed studies, with a weighting system based on the strongest empirical evidence.

She says the big advantage of Fitwel over WELL will be its independence and “ideological” difference. In other words, it’s relatively low cost, at a flat US$6500 for buildings irrespective of size. WELL by contrast is privately owned.

Dr Engelen became an ambassador last year and was then approached by AMP which had heard about the rating, she said.

She says there are “one or two” other ambassadors in Australia but there may soon be more: one professional in the healthy buildings space told The Fifth Estate late on Thursday that they were considering taking the course to become an ambassador.

Dr Englelen said in the US thousands of buildings were going through the certification process and several hundred had already been certified.

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