Building codes focused on energy efficiency and improvements are not only widely embraced, but now are an expected standard. This improvement in the way the built environment is designed was a natural progression, driven by diminishing natural resources.

Now, forward thinkers are improving the methods to minimize the built environment’s impact on the environment and exploring solutions that not only decrease the impact on occupant health, but maybe also have the opportunity to improve it.

Progams like the Fitwel® Certification System set a new standard for design and operational strategies to support the health of people, including those living in multifamily residential properties. Fitwel, operated by the Center for Active Design, offers more than 50 strategies to improve how housing can impact residents’ health. The program is offered to developers with many pathways to achieve certification and an average certification takes only 12 to 16 weeks for approval.

“To date, FitWel has more than 700 registered projects, with an 80% increase in projects achieving certification between 2017 and 2018, a testament to the growing demand for healthy buildings and places,” says Joanna Frank, president and CEO, The Center for Active Design. “For new construction projects, Fitwel informs the design process to create multifamily housing that is intentionally optimized for resident health.”

This is just one aspect of the project that Carl Seville, principal at SK Collaborative, consults on. Sevill has more than 30 years of experience in renovation and home construction. He is a Green Globes professional, a HERS rater, an NGBS Master Verifier, a LEED Green Rater, and an EarthCraft and Enterprise Green Communities Technical Advisor, and holds the LEED AP Homes designation. He has served on the boards of directors of the Greater Atlanta Homebuilders Association and the Atlanta chapter of NARI, the Green Building Subcommittee and the Green Building Education Curriculum Committee of NAHB, NARI’s Green Remodeling Education Committee, the Georgia Governor’s Energy Policy Council, the USGBC Residential Green Building Advocate for Atlanta, and as a member of the board of the Atlanta Branch of the USGBC.

In this HIVE re:Think podcast, host Philip Beere talks to Seville about the impact of certifications for healthier residents, the challenges and the direct outcomes.

Developers now can also benefit from incentives offered by Fannie Mae's Healthy Housing Rewards program that can give up to a 15-basis-point loan discount to borrowers that incorporate health-promoting design and operations strategies into their projects. Qualifying projects must have Fitwel Certification and 60% of the project’s units must go to residents who are at or below 60% of the area median income (AMI). Once those prerequisites are achieved, Fannie Mae will reimburse certification fees up to $6,500.

Plus, projects that are part of the Fannie Mae Healthy Housing Rewards program can also benefit from an expedited certification review of just six weeks.

The future is healthy and promises more programs, policies and incentives that deliver improved mental, physical, emotional health for occupants, in addition to better health for the environment.

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