Not many people have heard of a wellness architect. Wellness is a pretty popular word. We know that wellness is about being in good mental and physical health and about actively maintaining that good health. And the role of an architect is commonly understood as someone that designs buildings. So how do these seemingly unrelated topics fit together? They fit together because most of our lives are spent inside buildings, and the way a building is designed drastically affects our health and well-being.
What is a Healthy Home?
As Americans, we spend about 90% of our day indoors. That equates to over 21 hours per day of being exposed to the air, water, sounds, and light that are inside our buildings. Unfortunately, a typical building, especially a typical home, has poor indoor air, water, light, and sound quality. This is due to chemicals that are used in building materials, furnishings and cleaning products, and bad design considerations.
A healthy home promotes good health and well-being by providing a positive indoor environmental quality (IEQ). IEQ takes into consideration air quality, thermal comfort, noise, water quality, and lighting. A healthy home also addresses wellness through safety (ex: remove tripping hazards), biophilic design (connecting people and nature within a building) and fitness.
Why is a Healthy Home Important?
Our culture is becoming increasingly aware of the effects of diet and exercise when it comes to our overall health. Meditation has even hit the main stream. We all want to live our healthiest lives possible. The problem is that most of us live and work in buildings that hinder us from being the healthiest versions of ourselves. The most commonly used building materials and furnishings off-gas harmful chemicals that cause upper respiratory issues, headaches, and nausea. Artificial lighting commonly causes headaches or eye strain because it wasn’t designed properly. Even natural light can cause headaches and distraction when not considered during the design phase.
There are so many causes of unhealthy and unsafe living conditions in a typical home, I could go on and on. While most of these unhealthy and unsafe conditions won’t kill us on the spot, they will slow us down in our daily activities and take a toll on our health over time. The materials in our homes contain carcinogens that can lead to disease. Children are especially susceptible to upper respiratory issues when exposed to bad air quality. Poor light quality can affect our sleep patterns which wears us down and makes us unproductive and unhappy. Even the way our kitchen is designed can discourage us from eating healthy on a regular basis.
Our homes need to promote positive health and well-being if we want to be the healthiest versions of ourselves.
What is the Role of a Wellness Architect?
Designing a new home or renovating an existing home is a challenging and time consuming process if going it alone. The role of an architect is to curate a beautiful design that is specific to the home owner’s goals and then oversee the construction process to ensure a finished product that meets everyone’s expectations. An architect will make the process of a new build or renovation easier and more enjoyable for the home owner. The role of a Wellness Architect encompasses all that an architect does, but includes design strategies, product purchasing guidance, and extra support during the construction process so that the home owner gets a home that promotes good health and longevity.
A wellness architect is an expert in designing a healthy and safe home. They will work with the home owner’s goals and make recommendations to turn a house into a healthful retreat. Researching safe products and design strategies is a time consuming and convoluted process. A wellness architect has the expertise to advise home owners on healthy design strategies and removes the burden of doing the research from the home owner.
A wellness architect looks at the full spectrum of what makes a healthy home. A good guide for assuring that everything is covered is to use the seven categories outlined by the WELL Building Standard. These categories are Air, Water, Light, Nutrition, Fitness, Comfort, and Mind. By designing a home that meets the highest standards in each of these categories, a home owner can rest assured that their home is going to promote good health.
What are Some Examples of Creating a Healthy Home?
Healthy indoor air quality is the most common example of a healthy home environment. The air in our homes is usually quite unhealthy, exposing us to pollutants that cause sickness and fatigue. A wellness architect will use building products that do not off-gas harmful chemicals. They will use building practices that keep wall cavities dry so mold cannot grow in them. And they will help facilitate mechanical design strategies that properly ventilate the home for fresh air.
Being exposed to natural daylight is an important part of maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Studies show that connection to nature is important for our mental wellness. Variation in light levels makes us more productive and more aware of our surroundings. And being in tune with natural sunlight gets us aligned with our body’s internal clock and allows for better sleep. A wellness architect will consider building orientation, room locations, window placement, and shading to maximize the daylighting potential of every space in the house. For instance, a home office will most likely be used during the day and will benefit from continuous daylighting throughout the day without being distracted by sun glare. This will affect where the office is placed in the home and how the windows will be shaded to control light levels.
A key part of living a healthy lifestyle is to eat healthy foods. But sometimes it is hard to eat right when our kitchens aren’t set up for things like meal prep and proper food storage. A wellness architect can design a kitchen that promotes healthy eating by having a large enough counter space for prepping healthy meals and keeping the trash / compost bin close by to easily toss the scraps, by creating counter space for small appliances like a juicer or crock pot, and by creating an herb garden for fresh, on-hand boosts of flavor.
We all deserve to live in a home that encourages good health, well-being and safety. As a wellness architect, I am devoted to making the place where our lives unfold as healthy as possible. If you are interested in learning more about the process of working with a wellness architect, please send me a message. I would love to hear from you.