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Chavez Federal Building Gets Fitwel Rating

Cesar Chavez Memorial Building, Denver, Colorado

With Colorado being in the top 10 for healthiest states, it is no wonder that healthier workplace environments are highly sought after here.

This year, the Cesar Chavez Memorial Building, in the heart of downtown Denver, was one of only four GSA buildings nationally to achieve a fitwel certification.

What is fitwel? This program was developed by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) along with GSA and is run by the Center for Active Design (CfAD) to develop, evaluate and certify health-promoting strategies.  Research-backed criteria developed by public health professionals is mapped out on a checklist. Documentation and photos are required for verification by a panel of independent reviewers to assess each building in the form of a numerical score.

“The criteria, as well as the documentation, have become more strict compared to prior years,” said Michael Alosi, fitwel program manager for Region 8. “The bulk of the work is taking photos and drawing the location of items on floor plans to prove the various features exist, as well as collecting and sometimes modifying policies to meet the criteria.”

Ratings for buildings range from zero to three-stars based on the number of points achieved.  Points are awarded in 12 individual categories that take a comprehensive look at location, building access, stairwells and indoor environment, work spaces, food and water availability, and emergency procedures. 

Rated buildings need 90 to 104 points to get a one-star rating, to get a two-star rating the points are 105 to 124, and to get the highest rating building’s need to get between 125 and 144 points. Getting points but no stars is also a likely outcome, existing buildings getting at least one star is considered a big accomplishment, according to the fitwel site. The Chavez Memorial Building received 96 total points to earn a one-star rating.

The Chavez Building, originally built in 1984, is a 10-story, approximately 300,000 square foot facility that serves as a gateway building into Denver’s Civic and Justice Center. Some of the amenities that helped it achieve a one-star rating are it’s access to lactation rooms, many break rooms, natural lighting and views throughout most spaces, filtered water on every floor and it’s urban location, with access to bike paths, parks and public transit centers.

“There are other ways we help to promote a healthy lifestyle in the Chavez that didn’t count in our review due to documentation requirements,” said Alosi.  “Items like having a fitness room, bicycle parking, electronic defibrillators, or some active design credits like encouraging stair use, though all of those are in place in the building, were not counted.” 

Alosi actually submitted three buildings for certification through CfAD in fiscal year 2018 but due to the strict criteria only one had enough points to be certified.  The other two buildings are now counted as benchmarked, the next step down from being certified. 

Benchmarking is still worthwhile as it helps you learn the opportunities for potential future certification. Areas of opportunity to implement low/no cost improvements to raise future scores include hand washing signs in restrooms, moving to a completely tobacco-free site policy or advertising certain amenities within walking distance.

GSA already incorporates elements of the program via active design such as having collaborative spaces for employee interaction, centralized printers, sit-to-stand and treadmill desks and promoting the use of natural daylight for work spaces.

Region 8 leads all GSA regions with most fitwel certified buildings, a total of 13, and is second for benchmarked buildings at 14 total.