The Center for Active Design

Promotes architecture and urban planning solutions to improve public health

2021 Best in Building Health Winner

JLL Income Property Trust: The Penfield, St. Paul, MN

Photo Courtesy of JLL Income Property Trust

Our Mission

The Center for Active Design's mission is to transform design and development practice to support health, ensuring equitable access to vibrant public and private spaces that support optimal quality of life. The Center for Active Design is the leading non-profit organization using design to foster healthy and engaged communities. CfAD, which operates the Fitwel healthy building certification system, applies its multi-disciplinary expertise to empower decision-makers, providing publications, original research, certification, technical assistance, and digital tools. CfAD is responsive to unique local priorities and results in measurable outcomes.

Our Story

CfAD was launched by Mayor Michael Bloomberg in 2012 to transform New York City’s groundbreaking Active Design program into an international movement. Since launching, the organization’s work has gone global, informing the design of buildings and public infrastructure projects in more than 180 countries

Based on its expertise in health-promoting design and operations practices, in 2017, CfAD was awarded operating rights of the Fitwel Certification System, a healthy building standard originally developed by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the General Services Administration. 

CfAD has further expanded its focus on physical, mental, and social health to also include how design and development practice can impact civic life outcomes. Through its Assembly: Civic Design Guidelines publication, released in 2018, CfAD presents evidence-based strategies to create public spaces and buildings that lay the foundation for a robust civic life—inspiring greater trust, participation, stewardship, and informed local voting.

2021 & 2022 Best in Building Health Winner

M Moser Associates: Citi Tower One Bay East, Hong Kong

Photo Courtesy of M Moser Associates

Operator of Fitwel

As a part of our strategy to drive market transformation, CfAD works with the private sector to implement the Fitwel Certification System as a framework for optimizing commercial and residential buildings and sites to support human health. 

Fitwel is the world's leading certification system committed to building health for all®. Generated by expert analysis of 5,600+ academic research studies, Fitwel is implementing a vision for a healthier future where all buildings and communities are enhanced to strengthen health and well-being. 

Fitwel was originally created by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Prevention and U.S. General Services Administration. The CDC remains the research and evaluation partner for Fitwel. 

CfAD's new business unit, Adai (pronounced "a-DAY"), is charged with expanding Fitwel to the global market, administering the program while providing best-in-class customer service and technical support. 


Translating Research Into Action

Research Advisory 

To inform its work, CfAD has long collaborated with the research community. The CfAD Research Advisory creates a formal space for experts in areas across the built environment to inform CfAD’s efforts, ranging from the Fitwel Standard to research reports to quantitative impact analyses. This advisory is committed to creating cross-sector relationships and bridges the gap between research and implementation. 

If interested in joining the CfAD Research Advisory or learning more, please reach out to Grace Dickinson for consideration. 

Thought Leadership

CfAD is constantly working to drive the conversation around health and the built environment forward, collaborating with its partners to offer unique perspectives around current issues, changing contexts, and emerging areas of research.

Past topics include:

A New Investor Consensus: The Rising Demand for Healthy Buildings

A Better Box: Optimizing Industrial Spaces for Employer Health and Wellness

COVID-19: Our Ongoing Response to Industry Demand

Healthy Housing for All: How Affordable Housing is Leading the Way

Board of Directors

Les Bluestone, Chair

President, Blue Sea Development Company and Blue Sea Construction Co.

Michael Vardaro, J.D., Secretary

Managing Partner, Zetlin & De Chiara LLP

Kevin Davis, Treasurer

Americas CEO, Jones Lang LaSalle Hotels & Hospitality

Joanna Frank, President

CEO, Center for Active Design; President & CEO, Active Design Advisors, Inc. (Adai)

David J. Burney FAIA, Director

Academic Director of Urban Placemaking Management, Visiting Associate Professor Grad Center for Planning

Ashwin Vasan, MD, PhD (ex-officio)

Commissioner, New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene

Thomas Foley (ex-officio)

Commissioner, New York City Department of Design and Construction

Sancia Dalley, Director

Senior VP, Investor Engagement and Strategic Partnerships, Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights

Deb Gorhan, Director

Director, Sustainability Culture & Engagement, Johnson & Johnson

Dr. Elizabeth Garland, Director

Division Chief, Division of Preventive Medicine & Community Health; Professor, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai

Dr. Bon Ku, Director

Director, Health Design Lab, Thomas Jefferson University; Host, Design Lab Podcast; Professor of Emergency Medicine

Setha Low, Ph.D, Director

Distinguished, Professor of Anthropology, Geography and Psychology and Director of the Public Space Research Group, CUNY Graduate Center

Bob Simpson, Director

Founder, Simpson Impact Strategies; Former Vice President and Head of the Multifamily Green and Affordable Housing Business at Fannie Mae

2022 Best in Building Health Winner

Kilroy Realty Corporation: 201 3rd Street

Photo Courtesy of Kilroy Realty Corporation

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FITWEL & Design is a registered trademark of the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS). Participation by The Center for Active Design and/or any other organization does not imply endorsement by HHS.