Media Contact: Beth McGroarty
[email protected] • +1.213.300.0107

Global Wellness Institute Holds First-Ever Roundtable on Wellness in the Architecture, Engineering and Construction Industries

Top architects, builders, interior designers and investors agreed the time is now to expand the focus from environmental health to designing for human well-being

Miami, FL – July 12, 2017 – The Global Wellness Institute (GWI) is known for its roundtables that bring experts together for honest discussions about the most pressing issues and fastest-growing markets in the wellness industry. And on June 27, the GWI held the world’s first roundtable and forum on how designing for human health and wellness will profoundly transform the architecture, engineering and construction (AEC) industries. 

The all-day, invite-only event, held at Steelcase headquarters in NYC, gathered 30 leaders in architecture, engineering, design and investment, from as far away as India and Wyoming. The forum kicked off with a roundtable moderated by Veronica Schreibeis Smith (Chair, GWI’s Wellness Architecture Initiative; founding principal, Vera Iconica Design), and featured experts like Michael Armstrong (CEO, National Council of Architectural Registration Board) and Joanna Frank (Executive Director, Center for Active Design). Presentations followed by Sally Augustin, PhD (Principal, Design with Science) on “Designing, Literally, for Wellbeing”; Paula Baker Laporte, FAIA (Founder, Econest) on “The Reality Behind Designing for Human Health” and James Brewer (Workspace Consultant, Steelcase) comparing guidelines for the four leaders in wellbeing certification for built environments: Fitwell, LEED, Living Building Challenges and the WELL Building Standard. The day wrapped with workshops on “Defining Wellness Architecture”, “Metrics & Measurability: Quantitative vs. Qualitative” and “Overcoming Industry Hurdles”.

Dozens of critical issues were discussed and debated. What will the future look like when built environments are designed for both human AND environmental health? What is the current state of demand for more wellness design? What are the best evidence-based strategies – and what meaningful results are being reported? How do we properly measure the crucial (yet often subjective) effect environments have on physical and mental well-being? What’s the ethical responsibility to eliminate unhealthy and toxic products and systems – and to what degree will architects and engineers be held accountable for the health impacts of their buildings? How does incorporating wellness in architecture affect ROI for developers and owners? Is the future of wellness architecture a luxury for the elite, or is it an innate human right to occupy spaces that are at least not harmful? And is new legislation/regulation necessary to move this concept from niche to mainstream? 

An in-depth report on the insights will be released this summer. 

The GWI will hold a follow-up roundtable on wellness architecture at the Global Wellness Summit being held October 9-11 at The Breakers Palm Beach, Florida. 

“It’s shocking how human wellness is typically left out of the architecture and design equation: a few professionals have been working in isolated crevices behind the rise of the green movement,” noted forum organizer, Veronica Schreibeis Smith. “In general, the industry has put environmental health before human health. But powerful shifts are underway, and now ‘designing for human health’ figures in far more projects, both public and private. Forum experts agreed that wellness architecture is at the tipping point, with real momentum for new building and design strategies – as well as for measuring and broadcasting the real value of human wellness and productivity to builders and investors.” 

5 Forum Takeaways

  1. The scientific evidence indicates that the built environment affects all dimensions of human wellness: physical, social, mental, occupational, emotional and spiritual. But public awareness of how surroundings impact one’s health seriously lags behind the scientific evidence. Knowledge must be shared much more systematically for people to have the power to choose environments that enhance (and don’t hurt) their health and well-being.
  2. Now is the time to expand the focus of the architecture, engineering and construction industries from environmental health to human wellbeing. And it’s happening fast, with architects reporting far more interest from public and private clients for everything from biophilic design principles to tackling deadly indoor air pollution to lighting design that boosts mood, sleep and productivity to strategies that block electromagnetic radiation to design that encourages movement and social interaction. They’re working with mayors, workplaces, schools and prisons – even parents of special-needs children. Signs of progress are mounting: for example, Fannie Mae, one of the largest U.S. government-lending housing agencies, just launched the Healthy Housing Rewards initiative, with financial incentives for borrowers who infuse healthy design in new, affordable rental properties, like features that improve air quality, encourage physical activity and interweave community spaces. 
  3. Universities have an ethical (and market) responsibility to train architects and designers to understand the impact of the built environment on human health and well-being as basic knowledge in their design tool belt.
  4. Today’s building codes frequently result in buildings that are unhealthy, causing people discomfort and illness. Tomorrow’s code requirements should result in benign buildings as a minimum. High-performance buildings of the future must not only achieve net positive environmental impacts, but also nourish the humans that occupy them.
  5. Developers are starting to see (as with the green building movement) that buildings designed for human wellness are a market differentiator that can boost prices and profits. But panelists agreed that making the economic case for more wellness architecture projects/investment means more high-quality data on cost, impact and ROI – and that pressure to get more government and regulatory bodies involved may prove the most powerful future weapon. 

For more information, contact Beth McGroarty: [email protected] or (+1) 213-300-0107

About the Global Wellness Institute: The Global Wellness Institute (GWI), a non-profit 501(c)(3), is considered the leading global research and educational resource for the global wellness industry, and is known for introducing major industry initiatives and regional events that bring together leaders to chart the future. GWI positively impacts global health and wellness by advocating for both public institutions and businesses that are working to help prevent disease, reduce stress, and enhance overall quality of life. Its mission is to empower wellness worldwide.