News Apr 25, 2019

Being Healthy Starts at the Office

According to the World Health Organization, most of the world’s population (roughly 58%) spends one-third of their adult life at work. That’s why it’s so important that offices actively contribute to employee’s development and wellbeing.

Jacobs office in Boston

To encourage positive effects on the health of workers, their social impacts and overall wellbeing, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), alongside the General Services Administration (GSA), created Fitwel – a certification system for optimizing buildings to support human health. Granted exclusive license to lead future development within the private and public sectors by the federal government, the Center for Active Design (CfAD) operates Fitwel. Obtaining Fitwel certification is compared to other building measurement systems like LEEDEnergy Star or Green Globes.

At Jacobs, we implemented the Fitwel program to encourage a range of different strategies that would align with what we’re doing in local offices. Our Philadelphia and Boston offices are now Fitwel certified and we’ve committed to certifying more offices under the program, which focuses on health, productivity and occupant satisfaction.

“We celebrate achieving a 2-star Fitwel certification at our Philadelphia office and a 3-star certification at our Boston location, where we also achieved LEED V.4 Gold – and we’re awaiting results of our WELL Certification (aiming for Gold). These approaches prioritize elements and materials that impact human body systems, both short and long-term, and represent a dramatic shift in just how we define sustainable design,” said Jacobs Interior Designer Andrea Alaownis. “For example, accessing natural light and views within the workplace has expanded to address features like circadian rhythms and color quality.”

Jacobs Interior Designer Molly O’Hearn shared, “Comfort is a now a measurable category, encompassing ergonomics, acoustics and sound masking, thermal and olfactory comfort, among other criteria. Spaces are designed to encourage movement and activity, so stairs are prioritized over elevators, and furnishings should offer a variety of choices of position and standing. Fitness areas and activity incentive programs are endorsed, along with lockers and showers. Since Fitwel focuses on operations and occupant opportunities, we see this as an option for many offices which are not undergoing renovation, to reach a greater percentage of our employees, visitors and clients where we work.”

To ensure our commitment, we launched PlanBeyond, our global sustainability action plan that adds a vital third branch focused on our people, along with sustainable project work and our operational sustainable workplace plans. 

The programs we undertook include procurement plans to ensure that healthier materials are used in our office renovations and maintenance, developing maps and directories to help employees find amenities within walking distance of the office and encouraging healthier behavior through the programs in the office.  Incorporating a high level of occupational health and safety contributes to high quality and performance in work life. We’re also developing guidelines for Jacobs’ office renovations and modifications to ensure that our own facility upgrades meet the standards we recommend to our clients – delivering on our promise of a more connected, sustainable world.