The correlation between wellness and our physical environment has long been established. An exciting and growing trend in today’s architecture and design combines sustainable building principles with a growing focus on people and their wellness needs, whether they are physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, social, financial or environmental. So called “thin places”, either natural or constructed, will help give meaning and purpose to our lives by connecting us with ourselves, others and the world around us. Another emerging trend is biophilic design, which leverages the healing power of nature found in light, water, essences and such. We will also see a stronger connection between architectural design and the natural features of the land around it, with a particular emphasis on local materials and artisanal goods. At the same time, design will promote physical movement, especially for seniors, changing their living spaces in a way that encourages a more active and healthy daily routine. Our indoor living spaces will change as well, thanks to advancements in technology and a continued preference for the benefits of open floor plans; adaptive reuse will repurpose buildings rather than demolishing them. And spaces that can adapt to different, changing needs will gain in popularity.
Health and wellness are a direct result of the environments where we live, work and play.
TREND 1: From Sustainability to Wellness Architecture and Regenerative Design
The evolution to wellness architecture and regenerative design has been gradually catching on. It incorporates sustainable design principles and goes beyond, putting the wellness of people and the planet at the center of conception, design planning, strategy formulation, creation and regeneration of our built environment and our communities. Wellness architecture and design involve designing around a holistic human lifestyle in harmony with nature and spirit. It is a regenerative approach which promotes health and wellness outcomes for people, the built environment and nature, and enables a deeper understanding of how we, humans, interrelate with our environment, and inversely, how the environment impacts human wellbeing.
TREND 2: Planning and designing to enhance the seven human-centered wellness benefits and dimensions
These have been identified through decades of evidence-based health and wellness scholarly and scientific research and they include:
- Physical Wellness – lower stress and blood pressure, improved respiratory function, increased physical activity and energy, lower obesity levels, weight management, and increased healing rates, improved circadian cycles, lower addictions and improved nutrition.
- Mental Wellness – improved cognitive ability and appraisal, increased focus and clarity of mind, increased resilience, reduced anxiety and negative thoughts, awareness of the present moment (mindfulness), increased attention restoration and soft fascination, and reduced temporal density.
- Emotional Wellness – maintaining healthy relationships, improved mood, lower stress levels, experience of positive emotions (awe, serenity, contentment, wonder and joy), resilience and positive coping, and experience of inner peace.
- Spiritual Wellness – addressing existential questions, increased self-transcendence, experience of wholeness, positive sense of solving problems, invigorated meaning and purpose in life, spiritual arousal, and increase of life satisfaction.
- Social Wellness – creating community, increasing generosity, mutualism and empathy. This includes compassion, helpfulness and enhanced collective concerns; it create a sense of safety, belonging and security longer life expectancy, and pro-social behaviours.
- Financial Wellness – increased efficiency, productivity and job performance, reduced absenteeism, positive return on investments, increased market distinction and branding, increased facilities due to economy of scale, and reduced stress over financial matters and security.
- Environmental Wellness – lower air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions, cleaner water, greater access to nature, increase of biophilic effect, improved biodiversity and regenerative processes, disaster mitigation, and pro-environmental and biospheric behaviours.
TREND 3: Thin Places, either natural or constructed
Thin places are locations or settings with a qualitative difference between our normal everyday lives and something beyond our current frames of reference, that transcend to more extraordinary, mysterious and even spiritual experiences. The wellness benefits from thin places can form meaningful connections between ourselves, others and the greater world around us. The experiences of awe and serenity, that derive from such places, can help give meaning and purpose to our lives, give us perspective and balance, support our physical, cognitive and emotional wellness, and stimulate a sense of wonder that reinforces positive pro-social and pro-environmental behaviors.
TREND 4: Biophilic Design
Biophilic design connects us to the healing power of nature and involves the integration of natural elements into built environments. It incorporates an array of principles, such as light, acoustics, dynamic airflow, presence of water, essences, natural materials, harmonious visual connections. Biophilic design can include features like green walls, natural lighting, indoor plants and materials inspired by nature, creating a healthier and more soothing atmosphere. Biophilic design is proven to reduce stress, enhance creativity and clarity of thought, improving our overall wellbeing.
TREND 5: Designing to enhance a sense of belonging and reciprocity with the land
This helps inform and inspire the design of gardens, landscape as well as indoor built environments. Embodying the heritage of a land and its natural features in design can evoke a strong connection with the inherent spirit of a place and offer enhanced wellness benefits on physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual levels.
TREND 6: Designing to promote greater physical movement, especially for Senior Living
Designing walking paths, trails and interactive gardens, as well as maintaining moderate sets of stairs in senior living spaces (vs. removing them and opting for one-level spaces) is becoming more common. Encouraging seniors to walk, use stairs and have opportunities to move more on a regular basis within their everyday built environments helps improve balance, agility, mental wellness, and helps prevent various conditions related to aging.
TREND 7: Smart Homes
With advancements in technology, smart home systems have become more prevalent. These systems allow occupants and homeowners to control various aspects of their indoor environments, including lighting, temperature, security and entertainment, through automated or voice-activated systems.
TREND 8: Open Floor Plans
Open-concept layouts continue to be popular, emphasizing spaciousness and connectivity between different areas of a home or office. This design approach promotes natural light, flexibility and interaction.
TREND 9: Adaptive Reuse
Adaptive reuse involves renovating or repurposing existing buildings for new uses instead of demolishing them. This trend promotes sustainability and preservation of historic structures while giving them new life and functionality.
TREND 10: Wellness-Oriented Spaces
There is an increasing emphasis on designing spaces that promote physical and mental wellbeing. This includes incorporating features like fitness areas, meditation rooms, private wet areas, natural ventilation, and access to green spaces.
TREND 11: Flexibility and Multi-functionality
Spaces that can adapt to different needs and functions are gaining popularity. Architects are creating flexible layouts and using modular furniture to accommodate various activities and changing lifestyles.
TREND 12: Emphasis on local and artisanal
In response to the mass production of goods, there is a growing interest in supporting local artisans and craftsmanship. Designers are incorporating handmade and locally sourced elements to add uniqueness and a sense of authenticity to spaces.