Building Wellness in Design

How do you design to support overall wellness?

By Heather Fellows, Senior Interior Designer at Stegenga + PARTNERS

We live in a world where buildings and their designs impact our wellness significantly. The concept of wellness is no longer confined to personal habits and healthcare but has permeated the realm of architecture and design. This article explores the importance of wellness in senior living facilities, the strategic retrofitting of existing senior living facilities to integrate wellness, and the business case supporting it.

Wellness in Design: The Why?

Why should we retrofit our existing senior living facilities for resident wellness? The answer lies in several factors:

  1. Aging Population and Market Dynamics
    As the population ages, there is a growing need for designs that cater to their specific needs and enhance their wellness.
  2. Competitive Edge
    In the crowded market of senior living facilities, wellness-oriented design can serve as a key differentiator.
  3. Economic Benefits
    Incorporating spaces dedicated to wellness has an impact on occupancy rates and reputation which can yield long term returns through brand loyalty and prolonged resident tenures. It can also reduce healthcare costs over time, leading to substantial financial savings for both residents and the facility.
  4. Mitigating Risk
    Wellness-orientated design addresses health and safety concerns, thus reducing risk by demonstrating a commitment to exceeding the minimum standards in health and safety.

What is Wellness in Design?

Wellness in design is a holistic approach that intentionally addresses all dimensions of wellness through the built environment. It encompasses:

  1. Spiritual Wellness
  2. Environmental Wellness
  3. Occupational Wellness
  4. Social Wellness
  5. Physical Wellness
  6. Emotional Wellness
  7. Intellectual Wellness

These dimensions are reflected in the WELL Building Principles, which include thermal comfort, air, sound, water, materials, nourishment, mind, light, community, and movement.

Implementing Wellness in Design

Strategically retrofitting for resident wellness involves several steps. It starts with conducting strategic facility audits and creating a wellness environments map. The spaces should be aligned with the desired experience. This process should involve collaboration with experts and industry partners for holistic solutions.

Creating inclusive and accessible environments is crucial. Simple ways to integrate wellness into design include addressing lighting, using relaxing color palettes, regular maintenance of air filters, and utilizing outdoor areas for programming. Prioritizing resident wellness with transcendent design and thoughtfully curating experiences through the holistic integration of wellness principles is key.

Cost-effective retrofitting approaches should prioritize high impact areas and consider phased implementation. Securing funding through grants, partnerships, and ROI projections can aid in the process.

The Business Case for Wellness in Design

Built environments that incorporate wellness in their design lead to healthier residents and staff. The staff are less likely to have health issues such as high blood pressure, obesity, diabetes, and high cholesterol. They are less likely to suffer from depression and report unhealthy days.

Next Steps

The journey towards retrofitting for resident wellness involves conducting a facility assessment, conducting employee surveys, engaging experts, and prioritizing. Taking small steps for incremental improvement can go a long way.

Remember, wellness in design is about creating spaces that enhance the overall well-being of the residents and not simply addressing what’s broken . It’s time to embrace a human-centric approach to design, and together, let’s build wellness into our environments!

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