Building Health for All During COVID-19: A Letter from the Center for Active Design Team

April 9th, 2020

To our global community,

Over the last ten years, we are proud that CfAD has become a trusted resource to you, the professionals who shape our buildings and public spaces. As COVID-19 presents challenges for people across the globe, we believe that together we can continue to optimize our built environment to address human health in response to our changing needs. Fortunately, we know that, throughout history, communities, including our hometown of New York City, have leveraged the built environment as a pivotal tool to combat public health crises, and we are confident that we can do it once again.

The very concept of Active Design stemmed from NYC’s built environment successes at the turn of the last century, when infectious disease epidemics like cholera, yellow fever, and tuberculosis were mitigated through infrastructure and policy change. [1]

Growing from the idea that the built environment and health are inherently tied, we launched the Center for Active Design to translates rigorous public health research into practical, evidence-based solutions to optimize holistic health outcomes, and support physical mental, and social health. After having expanded this movement worldwide, we are more prepared now than ever before to rise to the challenge of COVID-19.

In response to your deep commitment to addressing health outcomes for your tenants, employees, and residents, we are utilizing our unique position to support you in the following ways:

  • Translating rigorous scientific research into practical, evidence-based solutions to optimize health outcomes. In the midst of the rapidly-evolving COVID-19 context, it’s important to ‘cut through the noise’ and elevate those strategies with the strongest body of evidence. We are in continuous collaboration with our research partners to ensure up-to-date accuracy on how built environment strategies can reduce COVID-19 transmission, support our mental well-being, and address holistic health outcomes.
  • Expanding our online resource library and educational opportunities. We are expanding our online learning opportunities and adapting our COVID-19 related newsletter editorials into downloadable fact sheets for ease of distribution. Stay tuned for a new COVID-19 resource page on with links to fact sheets, webinars, resources, and articles produced by CfAD and our network of partners. In this time of social distancing, we’ll also be expanding our online learning opportunities across a full range of topics.
  • Responding to the needs of our Fitwel community. As the operator of Fitwel, the world’s leading certification system committed to building health for all™, CfAD is committed to working with Fitwel users to maximize the health and safety of their occupants. In the coming weeks, we will be developing new resources in response to conversations with Fitwel advisors and partners. We value your input and will prioritize efforts based on demand. Feel free to respond directly to this message with your needs.

While much remains unknown about COVID-19 and how its full impacts will unfold, one thing is certain—we are all in this together. The work we do today to halt the spread of the virus, mitigate underlying chronic disease risks, and reduce health inequities will make our communities more resilient to future challenges. We are grateful to you, our diverse community of innovators and thought leaders who are keeping public health considerations at the forefront of design and development practice.

In solidarity,

Joanna Frank
President & CEO


[1] The City of New York. (2010). The Active Design Guidelines: Promoting Physical Activity through Design. The City of New York, New York.