By Afia Paracha, Communications Assistant Student Worker with UVA Facilities Management
Fitwel certification ranks how well a building and its environment support the well-being of occupants based on 12 categories, including location, outdoor spaces, workspaces, emergency preparedness and more.
The new 165,000-square-foot Student Health and Wellness Center – completed in late August 2021 – features upgraded space for health and wellness medical appointments as well as new health promotion offerings. In addition to being a center for physical health, the building serves as a new student center on Grounds with a focus on well-being with multipurpose instructional spaces, a teaching kitchen, an “oasis lounge” and special programming such as meditation and art therapy classes.
The center was constructed in a way that it would support the overall health of students, according to Capital Construction & Renovations Senior Project Manager Amy Eichenberger, who managed the construction project.
“As this is the UVA Student Health and Wellness Center, gaining Fitwel certification demonstrates the University’s and the center’s commitment to student health and wellness,” Eichenberger said.
Of nine higher-education buildings in the country to receive Fitwel certification, UVA’s center is the fourth to achieve at least a 2-star rating on the 3-star scale. A total score of at least 90 points is needed to earn Fitwel certification with higher scores receiving higher certification ratings.
Accessibility to the Student Health and Wellness Center is a quality that fulfilled several of the Fitwel requirements. Students can travel on foot, by bike, or by the University Transit System to arrive at the building. By providing bicycle parking, accessible showers, access to a transit stop and being in an area with a high Walk Score, the building garnered many points.
“Health and wellness were integrated into the design of the building from day one,” said Ethan Heil, an engineer with the UVA Office for Sustainability who led the Fitwel certification process for the center.
“Simple techniques such as the design of an open and inviting stairwell can encourage physical activity.” In addition, the location and size of windows were designed to optimize natural daylighting and views of nature – two design techniques that have been shown to promote mental wellbeing among building occupants, Heil said.
The center also offers access to an outdoor fitness area, farmers markets and fresh produce delivery, and health promotion programming. Along with the building’s tobacco and smoke-free policy, these factors promote the health of visitors while also fulfilling several Fitwel standards.
Overall, the building received at least some points in every category resulting in a total score of 105 points and earning a 2-star certification.