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Saturday 20 January 2018
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05 Jul 2017
Wellness Architecture Initiative hosts inaugural roundtable

Wellness continues to infiltrate industries and disciplines, and now is gaining traction in the architecture, engineering, and construction fields.

With spa and wellness clients searching for authenticity in their experiences, it stands to reason that they are going to start looking deeper than the service menu or room décor. Millennials, especially, are seeking businesses that demonstrate a commitment to myriad social issues, including the environment, sustainable business practices, and the creation of healthy work environments.

Last week, the Global Wellness Institute’s Wellness Architecture Initiative held its first global roundtable discussion at the headquarters of architecture, furniture and technology company Steelcase in New York City, which was attended by several dozen architects and designers from far-flung locales.

Initiative chair Veronica Schreibeis Smith, CEO and founding principal of US-based Vera Iconica Design, created an agenda that looked at the shifts in demand for wellness design, what meaningful results we’re seeing in enhancing health and wellbeing through design, and how the industry can move the conversation forward.

The roundtable discussion was made up of 15 participants, all experts in some aspect of architecture, engineering or design, and was moderated by Smith.

Many architects and engineers are thinking about ways to design and create buildings that make wellness more accessible to the mainstream, and there is already a quantity of research and information available to share.

Panel participants reported that clients today are increasingly interested in incorporating biophilic design principles and green walls, and there is a growing awareness of indoor air quality, awareness of light and its effect on people, and the need to avoid electromagnetic radiation. One designer commented, “We forget how much influence we have with every client and community contact where there is engagement.”

Businesses are starting to think holistically, across functions and industry, in both the public and private sector. From mayors of cities to parents of special-needs children, the number of inquiries into wellness design is increasing, the panel agreed.

From a financial standpoint, businesses are starting to see that environments created with wellness in mind are a way to differentiate themselves – as well as a way to increase ROI by keeping tenants longer.

But there was consensus that there is still some way to go to make the economics work, and a need to translate awareness of the opportunity into a widespread commitment. Government and regulatory bodies need to become involved, the panel agreed – the fact that wellness makes us feel good isn’t compelling enough to create regulations.

However, progress is being made; in the US, Fannie Mae, one of the biggest government-lending housing agencies, just launched its Healthy Housing Rewards initiative, which provides a financial incentive for healthy design features in newly constructed affordable rental properties. The first phase provides a pricing break for borrowers who incorporate design features that improve air quality, encourage physical activity, and incorporate common space, community gardens and playgrounds into their projects.

Panel participants explored how to elevate the conversations about emotional and spiritual aspects of wellness in design, which for now is mostly the realm of academic research. The key seems to be measurement; with organisations like Steelcase and Delos starting to measure social interactions and outcomes in wellness-designed spaces, there will be more support for the concept of wellness design as more data becomes available. Wearable technology can measure people’s reactions to wellness design by measuring heart rate or skin response, and seeing positive outcomes in places like hospitals and prisons with intentional design will also help the cause.

The roundtable also included individual presentations from Sally Augustin, PhD and principal of Design With Science, a firm that conducts studies and uses research to guide design principles; Paula Baker LaPorte, FAIA, a founder of EcoNest Homes, a designer and builder of natural and non-toxic structures; and James Brewer, workspace consultant at Steelcase, who showed a comparison of LEED, Fitwel, Well Building, and the Living Building Challenge – four of the current leaders in wellness architecture guidelines.

The afternoon was spent in several workshops, with all of the attendees gathering into groups to discuss topics such as defining wellness architecture, measuring and metrics, and identifying other industries that can positively influence wellness architecture.





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20 Jan 2018
Government policy on fitness and wellbeing in Wales set for scrutiny
Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson has been named as a keynote speaker for the Getting Wales Moving conference, which will scrutinise Welsh government policy on issues relating to fitness, health and wellbeing.
11 Jan 2018
Fitness sector leaders set for Madrid training programme
Top executives from the physical activity sector's leading organisations will converge in Madrid, Spain, next month to discuss business issues that will affect the growth of the industry globally.
21 Dec 2017
Birmingham named host city for 2022 Commonwealth Games
Birmingham has officially been named the host of the 2022 Commonwealth Games, beating competition from Kuala Lumpur, Victoria (Canada) and Australia.
20 Dec 2017
Golf leaders to challenge tradition at first Golf Business Innovation Show
The future model for golf clubs and businesses will take centre stage as leaders convene for the inaugural Golf Business Innovation Show in February.
20 Dec 2017
Birmingham set to win bid for 2022 Commonwealth Games
Birmingham is set to be officially announced as the host of the 2022 Commonwealth Games tomorrow (21 December).
13 Dec 2017
Drayson celebrates rise from school drop-out to UK fitness industry's Outstanding Individual of 2017
Danny Drayson has been on a journey from school drop-out to young person development ambassador at Life Leisure – and has now landed Active Training Awards' Outstanding Individual of the Year title along the way.
12 Dec 2017
World Spa Awards winners revealed: Talise Ottoman named best resort spa
The winners of this year’s World Spa Awards have been announced during a gala reception held at the JW Marriott Phu Quoc Emerald Bay resort in Vietnam.
06 Dec 2017
David Adjaye to address race and architecture at Design Miami
David Adjaye will speak on a panel at the 13th annual Design Miami international design fair this afternoon (6 December).
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