OFHPB Newsletter: Enhancing Health in Buildings


October 2018 • Issue #13 

Connecting the Dots

Enhance 2b

The Health & Wellness Guidance Crosswalk allows program and project managers to connect elements of the Guiding Principles for Sustainable Federal Buildings to industry standards such as LEED, Green Globes, WELL, and Fitwel, as well as federal standards for DOD and GSA. The expandable matrix view allows you to choose the criteria that best suits your project to promote health and wellness. The topics covered include Air Quality, Daylight and Circadian Rhythm, Diet, Exercise, General Health and Wellness, Potential Exposure and Risk to Occupants, Smoking Reduction/ Cessation and Views of Nature. The Crosswalk was created in collaboration with GSA’s Green Building Advisory Committee (GBAC).  

Lost in Translation?

Enhancing 3

Building professionals and public health experts rarely speak each other’s language. SFTool helps bridge this gap by demystifying building sustainability strategies, technologies and construction practices for those not working in the real estate field, e.g. public health professionals. At the same time, the tool explains occupant engagement programs, work/life balance strategies and health promotion campaigns for those not working directly with human resources, e.g. Facility Managers. Understanding each other’s perspective is key to an integrative approach to building design and operation.

Enhancing Health in Buildings

Enhancing 1

A building affects health in many ways, as shown above in SFTool.


90% of the day. That’s how much of our lives we spend indoors. $225 Billion. That’s the annual cost of workplace-related illness.  Imagine the impacts if buildings could enhance human health: Less absenteeism, lower health care costs, better individual cognitive function and improved organizational performance.  These opportunities inspired GSA’s Office of Federal High-Performance Buildings (OFHPB) to establish a Buildings and Health Program to develop, validate and deliver building design and operational practices to enhance occupant health.

To support this effort, OFHPB created a new Buildings and Health Module within the Sustainable Facilities Tool (SFTool.gov).The module suggests practices for improving health outcomes and reducing health risks in buildings, including:

  • Increasing ventilation to improve indoor air quality
  • Designing spaces with a variety of natural features that appeal to the human desire to be in environments with gardens, trees, sky and water (biophilic design)  
  • Establishing policies, operations and communications that align with health promotion campaigns and design upgrades
  • Choosing spaces, technology and furnishings that prioritize access to natural light, thermal comfort, and good acoustics; and that also promote physical activity, nutrition and ergonomics

Using graphics and plain language, the module introduces the complex concepts of health and well-being in a way that designers and project managers can easily understand and apply.  New pages present original OFHPB research findings on circadian light, ventilation and biophilia as well as a Health and Wellness Guidance crosswalk that connects the dots between the Guiding Principles for Sustainable Federal Buildings and other industry standards, guidelines and rating systems.  



Michael Bloom, manages the Buildings and Health Program and SFTool.gov for GSA’s Office of Federal High-Performance Buildings.