Fitwel vs. WELL

By Kelsey Alexander
Sustainability Consultant
Sustainable Investment Group (SIG)

Green building is a booming industry, and continues to grow everyday.1 In just three years, green buildings can save billions in energy savings, so it’s no surprise that among the 30 largest US real estate markets, 40% of existing office buildings have LEED, ENERGY STAR, or both certifications.2 Now, however, property owners and operators are beginning to prioritize human health as well as environmental health. Absenteeism costs United States businesses around $84 billion a year due to poor health and lost productivity.3 This is where certifications like WELL and Fitwel come in to play.

Both WELL and Fitwel focus on improving the health of a building’s occupants, but they are two very different certifications. WELL is closely modeled after LEED, but focuses exclusively on occupant health. It has seven health categories: air, water, nourishment, light, fitness, comfort, and mind. Registration for WELL costs $1,500 to $10,000, certification is $4,000 plus a square footage cost of $0.08 to $0.23 per square foot depending on project type and size. Performance costs $9,000 with a square footage cost of $0.15 to $.35 per square foot.

Fitwel, which was created by the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the General Services Administration (GSA), was designed for commercial interiors and multi-tenant and single-tenant buildings. Fitwel has twelve sections: location, building access, outdoor spaces, entrances and ground floor, stairwells, indoor environment, workspaces, shared spaces, water supply, cafeterias and prepared food retail, vending machines and snack bars, and emergency procedures. Registration for Fitwel costs $500 and certification costs $6,000.

As these programs grow, they also change to meet new demands. Lately, WELL has been working on v2. There are program refinements in the works, and localized metrics with customized scorecards for the region. Scoring is also being simplified and new concepts are being introduced like sound, temperature, materials, and community. There are also slight adjustments being made to testing protocols. Fitwel has expanded to multi-family housing. BREEAM USA and Fitwel have united their green building rating certifications, and Fitwel has also partnered with GRESB.

When a business or building owner is comparing WELL and Fitwel, it is important that they consider what each certification offers and what each one requires.

Fitwel WELL Both
  • Public transit within ½ mile
  • Adequate outdoor lighting
  • Onsite sale of produce
  • Bathroom cleaning schedule
  • Refrigerator and freezer cleaning schedule
  • Database of building emergency equipment
  • Ventilation
  • Filtration
  • Mold control
  • Air quality monitoring
  • Operable windows
  • Food labeling for allergies and nutrition
  • Water treatment
  • Bicycle maintenance tools
  • Health education
  • Active furnishings
  • Operable shading
  • Natural views
  • Green purchasing policies
  • No asbestos or asbestos abatement
  • Fitness rooms
  • IAQ policy
  • No smoking
  • Natural daylight

These show some of the differences and similarities between the two certifications, but they also have various pros and cons. While Fitwel is less expensive and easier to use, it is less stringent than WELL which means there may not be as many improvements made to the building. WELL is currently more popular than Fitwel and more comprehensive, but it is more difficult and more complicated to earn. To learn more about the pros and cons of WELL and Fitwel, visit this site.

So which certification is best? It truly depends on the project. Fitwel may be better for large existing buildings, multi-tenant buildings, cost-conscience clients, government buildings, or GRESB and BREEAM clients. WELL may be better suited for new construction projects, core and shell buildings, commercial interiors, single-tenant buildings, schools, retail, multifamily residential buildings, and hospitals. If you are considering Fitwel or WELL certification, it is important to compare the two certifications and decide what is best for you and your building.


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