If you have never considered that the design and management of buildings have a direct impact on our health and well-being, there is now a program that provides proof. Menkes Developments has announced that 25 York Street is the first office building in Canada to receive Fitwel certification. Fitwel, a building certification system for well-being in real estate, promotes occupant health and productivity through targeted improvements to workplace design and operations. The US-based program expanded into Canada last year, and Menkes has signed on as a Fitwel Champion, which represents a leader in employing this transformative approach to building design and management.

25 York Street, image courtesy of Menkes Developments

Striving to achieve Fitwel certification was a clear choice for Menkes. "Our mandate to focus highly on tenant health and wellness has never been stronger. Fitwel has enabled us to gain valuable insight into the way we operate our buildings," said Taryn Kelly, Senior Property Manager at 25 York Street. A statement from Jon Douglas, Director of Sustainability at Menkes notes, "We view Fitwel as a great initiative to allow us to engage with our tenants in new ways, and as a way to measure our performance in promoting health and wellbeing at our properties. We want to create opportunities for our occupants to live their healthiest lives by making this goal convenient and actionable to them, and Fitwel is a practical program to support Menkes in delivering on this objective."

Sean Menkes, Development Manager at Menkes, explained that, "we are always looking for ways to engage with our tenants and improve their health and well-being. We pride ourselves in listening to tenants and being proactive with our tenant engagement tools, to help keep them happy, healthy, and motivated, and not sick at home."

Interior of 25 York Street, image courtesy of Menkes Developments

Fitwel criteria includes over 55 evidence-based design and operational strategies that enhance building environments. Spread across 12 categories, criteria include siting the building within a walkable neighbourhood in close proximity to transit; easy access to green space; providing plenty of natural light to interior spaces; facilitating ground floor access from the exterior; implementing building features that encourage active lifestyles, such as bike racks, showers and change rooms, exercise rooms, and common areas for social interaction; improving sanitation and cleanliness; providing healthy food options; and engaging in community-building exercises to improve mental health.

With 25 York Street, Sean Menkes explained that the Fitwel certification was achieved mainly through community-building initiatives. Due to its design and construction as a AAA office tower, the building already had plenty of natural light, close proximity to transit, and floor-to-ceiling windows, but as Menkes described, they go above and beyond that to improve tenant well-being. "We encourage the use of stairwells, we provide healthy food options, and we promote hand washing," Menkes said, explaining that their Fitwel certification was primarily a result of their operations and management. "We have a bicycle repair program in the building where they come in once a month, and we even have a stair walking club." 

Bicycle racks at 25 York Street, image courtesy of Menkes Developments

In September 2017, Menkes launched their own Healthy Spaces wellness program with a focus on eating well, being active, maintaining health, and engaging the mind. Menkes is actively promoting opportunities for occupants to improve both their health and well-being, with the Fitwel certification in line with the new Healthy Spaces wellness program. Furthermore, as a Fitwel Champion, Menkes is committed to certifying all of their existing office buildings, with more already certified or in the process of being so this year. Both the Fitwel criteria and the Healthy Spaces program will also apply to all future developments.

Completed in 2010, 25 York Street is a AAA Class office tower home to the TELUS head office. The tower sits on a 1.8 acre site, and offers 2,787m² of retail space on the ground level, and over 72,464m² of office space among its 30 floors. You can read more about 25 York Street by visiting the projects database, linked below. Want to get involved in the discussion? Visit the projects associated Forum thread, or leave a comment in the space provided below.

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