Designing for Wellness. Why Wellness?

Maintaining mental and physical hygiene within your walls can decide whether you live or die

By JOHN GUILLIAMS

Simply put, our current built environment is working against our health and wellness. According to the Global Wellness Institute’s report “Build Well to Live Well,” the greatest health risks we face today are a result of sedentary lifestyles and lack of exercise, poor diet, stress, pollution, loneliness and alienation. Chronic disease now accounts for 70% of all deaths around the world. Prolonged sitting raises the risk of cardiovascular disease by 14%, cancer by 13% and diabetes by a whopping 91%.

But enough with the bad news. That isn’t why we are here today. The good news is research has shown that the determinants of chronic disease are less than 15% genetic and more than 85% environmental and behavioral. This means that as an industry, we have the opportunity to play an important role in creating homes and communities that are designed for wellness. We believe it is time we make a shift – one that purposefully puts people’s wellness at the center of the conception and design of our homes and neighborhoods. It’s important to take a holistic approach to wellness, designing homes to improve health, mind and well-being. To do this, we focus on the following 7 areas of wellness:

We believe it is time we make a shift – one that purposefully puts people’s wellness at the center of the conception and design of our homes and neighborhoods.

Air

• On average, Americans spend approximately 90% of their time indoors.
• According to EPA studies, indoor air is generally 2 to 5 times more polluted – and sometimes up to 100 times more polluted – than outdoor air.
• Optimize indoor air quality with a built-in central air purifying system to eliminate airborne pollens and dust particles.
• Maintain indoor air quality with proper ventilation, low VOC products and use of hard flooring instead of carpet.
• Check out our blog on indoor air quality and what you can do to eliminate invisible toxins in your home.
Water
• Water is essential to maintaining the function of every system in the body, including the heart, brain, and muscles.
• Use touchless faucets with built-in water filters throughout the home to encourage hydration.
• A shower filtration system greatly reduces exposure to chlorine and other harmful chemicals that can dry-out and damage skin and hair.
• A zero-threshold shower with an attractive grab bar ensures that shower will be accessible to everyone.

Light

• Circadian rhythm is the daily cycle that regulates a number of important bodily functions, including the body’s production of melatonin.
• Melatonin is a natural hormone that affects how awake and alert we feel in the day, and how well we sleep at night. Light suppresses the body’s natural production of melatonin – the brighter the light, the more it suppresses.
• Install smart, adjustable color temperature light bulbs throughout the home to help reinforce the body’s circadian rhythm and improve energy, mood and productivity.
• Plan for plenty of natural light, an important mood and productivity booster.
• Automatic solar-adaptive shades that adjust throughout the day in response to the changing position of the sun save energy and reduce glare and heat gain.

Fitness

• Daily exercise is essential in maintaining a healthy weight and reducing the risk of chronic disease, including heart disease, diabetes, many types of cancer and musculoskeletal diseases such as arthritis or osteoporosis.
• A dedicated work-out room makes it easy to get a work-out in at home.
• A bike workshop in the garage encourages cycling.
• Built-in cubbies in the owner’s entry are a great place to store athletic gear.

Comfort

• Reading has been proven to benefit mental health and can relax the entire mind and body.
• Frequent brain exercise, such as reading, decreases mental decline for the elderly by 32%.
• Home studies and libraries filled with books help promote comfort.
• Create an indoor environment that minimizes distractions and promotes productivity.
• Learn more about the role of comfort in wellness at home.

Nourishment

• Encourage improved eating habits by providing occupants with healthier food choices and behavioral cues.
• Create a dedicated juicing station with fresh fruits and vegetables on pull-out shelves.
• Back kitchens provide space to spread out while cooking and plenty of storage for ingredients and kitchen tools.
• An outdoor potter’s shed promotes gardening, which is a great way to get fresh air and exercise, and provides fresh, organic vegetables for nourishment.

Mind

• Caring for the mind is equally as important as caring for the body.
• “I deserve it” features such as an in-home massage room or yoga studio are a great way to support mental and emotional health.
• Provide space and opportunities for interaction with friends, family, neighbors and the community.
• Homes with a strong indoor-outdoor connection, such as a living room with over-sized or corner-meet sliding glass doors that open up to a patio, create a cozy atmosphere that promotes socialization.

John Guilliams, AIA, WWYW has been designing innovative and successful homes and communities for over 30 years. He is a Partner and Director of Design at KGA Studio Architects in Colorado. He participated in the Wellness Within Your Walls (WWYW) pilot program, and was among the first WWYW certified professionals in the country.