The health and wellbeing of your building’s occupants isn’t just the purview of human resources anymore. Facilities managers can play an important role in making sure the people who work in your building are happy, healthy and active. “In the last four or five years, the conversation has changed from how much energy can we save to
how does the building affect people’s health and productivity,”
explains Turan Duda, Design Partner for Duda|Paine Architects.
“That’s a very different conversation than putting solar panels
on the roof.”
Incorporate active design elements into your building and
encourage your occupants to lead healthier lives with these
1 Encourage More Walking A few simple low- or no-cost improvements can encourage occupants to walk more. Moving printers, copiers and other communal equipment to a central space instead of giving occupants their own equip- ment not only requires users to walk farther to pick
up their printed material, but also creates a mini-meeting space
where occupants can bump into colleagues for impromptu conversations, says Joshua Zinder, Principal of integrated design
For a more formal, yet affordable walking initiative, Janet
Morra, Principal and Partner at Margulies Perruzzi Architects,
suggests starting a competition. “People can wear fitness moni-
tors to track how many steps they take during the day and then
compete by department or in teams for prizes. That encourages
Many of your occupants may already own a Fitbit or similar
tracker, Morra notes, but for those that don’t, your organization
may be able to negotiate a bulk discount from the manufacturer.
Some health insurance providers also offer savings on monitors,
so reach out to your HR department to see if this is possible.
People are also more likely to move if the walk is entertaining, adds Duda. One recent project – a five-building campus
for Blue Cross Blue Shield in Chattanooga, TN – emphasizes
walking everywhere on campus with a central courtyard and
walkways and offers a reduction in healthcare costs for people
who walk a certain number of steps. The chairwoman even
requested an office as far away from the parking area as possible so that she can set an example for employees.
“If you’re in a shopping mall, you don’t mind walking a couple
thousand feet because there are things of interest along the way,”
Duda explains. “When we designed the Blue Cross Blue Shield
campus in Chattanooga, we designed a series of stops along the
way so that if you walk 1,000 feet, you’ll come across a café, a
fitness center, a wellness center and an education center.”
2 Promote Stairs, Not Elevators An existing building has fewer opportunities than a new construction project to make stairs an appealing amenity, but it can be done. “Most fire stairs are gray on gray and they’re pretty grim. Try doing something more playful and using color,”
suggests Duda. “Lighting there is often minimal too, so lighting
is another important piece.”
Locating communal spaces like kitchenettes and lounges near
the stair landings whenever possible can draw occupants to the
stairs for convenience and community, Morra says.
3 Trim the Fat from Food Service Whether your organization has a couple of vend- ing machines or a full cafeteria, you can find ways to ffer appealing, but healthy options. Talk to your food service vendor to learn more about your healthy food options, Morra suggests.
“Another thing that’s becoming popular is arranging with local
food trucks to come to your site once a week and offer food,”
Morra adds. “Generally that doesn’t cost the organization anything – it’s a guarantee of a captive audience. I know a few companies that have designated food trucks visit two or three times a
week and they publicize it ahead of time because people will plan
to buy food there. They get some interesting and healthful alternatives to the cafeteria.”
4 Put Effort into Fitness Centers “Fitness rooms of the past are usually a leftover closet or someone’s back room with a few Nautilus machines in it,” explains Duda. “It’s not very inviting. Make it more front and center, more accessible, more visible, and closer to an outdoor space if possible so
that people have the choice of running or walking outdoors and
coming back to the gym. The location matters.”
Not all buildings need fitness equipment, however. Morra rec-
ommends surveying occupants to find out what amenities they
would find useful and following their lead. Also remember that
fitness isn’t just confined to the inside of the building – it might
be easier to create exercise opportunities outside.
Incorporate active design concepts for healthier,