Designing for Wellness: Creating Health-Focused Spaces

Last Updated on May 16, 2024 by tech-n-design

Have you ever wondered how your surroundings can impact your health? Designing for wellness focuses precisely on that: tailoring environments that foster well-being.

This article delivers straightforward approaches that can transform your living and working spaces.

The Essence of Wellness Design

Wellness design, or wellness architecture, is all about creating healthier spaces that positively impact their occupants’ emotional, social, and mental health.

Wellness design enriches the well-being of anyone engaging with the designed space by emphasizing elements such as natural lighting, air quality, and thermal comfort.

But what is this design concept’s exact contribution to mental and physical health? Let’s find out.

Mental and Physical Wellbeing

One of the key attributes of wellness design is its potential to enhance mental and physical well-being. Research has shown that exposure to green spaces near residential areas can reduce mental distress and prolong lifespans.

City dwellers can also experience lessened symptoms of depression and anxiety by spending time in urban green spaces.

In fact, just 30 minutes a week spent in outdoor green spaces could significantly decrease depressive symptoms. This evidence suggests that a simple walk in the park can significantly improve our mental health.

Connection to Nature

A key aspect of wellness design is incorporating biophilic design, a concept emphasizing the human connection to nature. Wellness architecture, which integrates elements of nature into the design of spaces, can enhance overall well-being and productivity. Some examples of biophilic design include:

  • Having views of nature from the interior of a building

  • Incorporating natural materials, such as wood and stone, into the design

  • Creating indoor gardens or green walls

  • Using natural lighting and ventilation systems

These elements can uplift the atmosphere of a building and support mental well-being.

Moreover, interaction with natural environments can significantly decrease mental fatigue and tension, boost concentration, and reduce anxiety, stress, and symptoms of depression.

Biophilic design facilitates this connection to nature and is instrumental in the success of wellness design.

Harnessing Natural Light

Maximizing natural light in your design for well-being

Natural light is another cornerstone of wellness design.

It helps synchronize the body’s internal clock, improving mood, increasing vitamin D production, and enhancing overall well-being.

Exposure to natural light, particularly in the morning, can kickstart the day positively and maintain high productivity levels. Achieving a natural balance in lighting is essential for optimizing the benefits of wellness design.

How might we maximize the use of natural light, especially in spaces where its availability is limited? And what are some smart lighting solutions? Let’s investigate these questions.

Maximizing Daylight

Maximizing daylight in interior spaces is essential to enhance well-being and maintain natural circadian rhythms. You can achieve this by including:

  • Large floor-to-ceiling windows

  • Light-colored finishes

  • Skylights

  • Interior glazing

These design strategies allow natural light to permeate into the core of the building, benefiting the occupants and contributing to a healthier indoor environment.

Smart Lighting Solutions

In places where natural light is insufficient, smart lighting systems can come to the rescue. These systems offer the following benefits:

  • Utilize real-time data and machine learning to automate optimal lighting adjustments, reducing the need for manual intervention

  • Adapt to individual preferences for various tasks

  • Support well-being by providing different light tones and intensities that correspond with the body’s natural 24-hour cycle

This way, even artificial lighting can play a role in supporting our natural circadian rhythms and promoting better sleep.

Integrating wellness into your space isn’t just about aesthetics; it’s about functionality and harmony, too. Learn how thoughtful lighting design benefits smart home ecosystems. This knowledge will help you make informed decisions about creating spaces that nurture well-being.

Sustainable Building Materials and Practices

Design using Sustainable building materials promoting wellness

Another vital aspect of wellness design is using sustainable building materials and practices to create healthy buildings.

By choosing non-toxic, chemical-free building materials, indoor air quality and occupant well-being can be significantly improved by implementing well-being practices.

This approach to design not only creates healthier environments for building inhabitants but also contributes to environmental sustainability.

But how can we make informed choices when selecting materials? How can we reduce the presence of harmful substances like Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs)? Let’s find out.

Material Selection

The selection of materials for wellness spaces should consider their environmental impact and health credentials. This may involve assessing factors such as:

  • The material’s travel distance to the site

  • Its embodied energy

  • Durability

  • Overall health impact

Some healthy and environmentally friendly materials gaining popularity include:

  • Mycelium

  • Algae

  • Recycled plastic

  • Recycled glass

  • Recycled food waste

Certifications like Cradle to Cradle and GreenGuard can also be useful tools to ensure the use of non-toxic materials, contributing to safer and healthier indoor environments.

Reducing Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs)

Another key aspect of wellness design is reducing Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) in building materials and finishes. This can be achieved by carefully evaluating all components, including primary materials, finishes, and installation products, as material surfaces tend to release VOCs.

By incorporating design features like operable windows and large sliding doors, residential indoor air quality can be improved. These features promote cross-ventilation and minimize the need for mechanical ventilation systems.

This way, we can create indoor environments that are not only safe but also contribute to our overall well-being.

Designing Outdoor Spaces for Well-being

Designing outdoor spaces is another significant aspect of wellness design. Such spaces promote physical activity and healthy behaviors, thereby enhancing mental and physical well-being.

Designing outdoor spaces that support exercise and movement can significantly enhance individuals’ wellness and health. But what elements should these spaces include?

And how can they promote our connection to nature?

Green Spaces

Incorporating green spaces into a design can greatly impact stress levels and mental well-being. Green spaces, such as forests, fields, and parks, are known to improve physical and mental health.

Integrating greenery and gardens into design can facilitate a deeper connection with nature, significantly reducing individual stress levels.

Furthermore, activities performed in green spaces are often more effective, as people tend to engage in them for longer periods and at higher intensities.

Active Design Features

Active design features in outdoor spaces can encourage exercise and movement, improving overall health.

This way, outdoor spaces serve as a means of relaxation and connection to nature and as a platform for promoting active and healthy lifestyles.

Promoting Inclusivity and Accessibility

Inclusivity and accessibility are other key principles of wellness design. Through its promotion of diversity, equity, and inclusion, wellness design can enhance the well-being of all occupants, irrespective of their identities, affiliations, characteristics, or abilities. This involves:

  • Incorporating universal design principles

  • Implementing non-slip flooring

  • Installing accessible fixtures

  • Tailoring services to meet the needs of diverse groups

But how can we make wellness spaces more socially accessible?

Universal Design Principles

Universal design principles ensure the safety, accessibility, and support of diverse space needs. By addressing the needs of individuals with disabilities, these principles allow for aging in place and accommodate disabilities in residential construction.

Adopting universal design early in the development stages of wellness spaces ensures:

  • Accessible physical activities and amenities for individuals with disabilities

  • Safe and accessible spaces

  • Fostering social connectivity

  • Providing sensory experiences

This approach makes wellness spaces inclusive and welcoming for everyone.

Social Accessibility

Social accessibility in wellness design fosters community engagement and supports the well-being of individuals, including those with disabilities.

Businesses can enhance social accessibility by offering multilingual services and creating spaces for group wellness activities.

This evolution of accessible design has been influenced by federal legislation, market buy-in, and the role of industry leaders, providing crucial lessons for advocates of social accessibility.

Multi-Sensory Design Elements

Multi-sensory design elements for well-being

Wellness design also involves engaging the senses through multi-sensory design elements.

Addressing the impact of the built environment on sensory experiences involves integrating calming colours and textures and improving acoustic design.

Let’s delve into these aspects.

Calming Colours and Textures

Calming colours and textures in design can significantly influence mood and create a soothing atmosphere. For instance, the colour green has a soothing effect and can alleviate physical discomfort. Dark blue and soft green colours in a bedroom can support a calming ambiance conducive to restful sleep.

Even the colour temperature of lighting can influence emotional responses, making warm tones suitable for cosiness and cool tones for vitality.

Acoustic Design

Acoustic design plays a crucial role in wellness spaces by controlling noise and preventing interruption in concentration. Incorporating acoustic partitions and wall panels can enhance productivity by absorbing and blocking unwanted sound from adjacent areas.

Natural sounds or white noise in a workspace can mask distracting noises, creating a soothing background that aids in concentration and reduces stress.


I’ve found a fantastic resource that really lines up with our focus on creating spaces that boost your well-being. The Global Wellness Institute has put together a snapshot of the biggest wellness architecture trends for 2024. They’re all about using natural touches and smart tech to make spaces that help us feel good, mentally and physically. It’s fascinating how things like natural light and flexible living areas are making our homes and offices better places to be. You can check out what they say and get some great ideas by visiting the Global Wellness Institute’s website here.


FAQs

How does colour psychology impact wellness design?

Colours play a significant role in emotional and psychological health. For instance, blues and greens are known to create calming effects and reduce anxiety, while yellows can energize and uplift. Incorporating the right colours into your design can enhance mood and mental well-being.

What are the benefits of using adaptive and multi-functional furniture in wellness design?

Adaptive furniture can transform spaces to meet various needs, promoting physical health through ergonomic design and flexibility. Multi-functional pieces reduce clutter, allowing for a more organized and tranquil environment, which is key to mental clarity and stress reduction.

How can sound scaping be used to enhance wellness in designed spaces?

Sound scaping involves incorporating natural sounds, such as water flowing or leaves rustling, or white noise systems to mask disruptive sounds. This can significantly improve concentration and reduce stress levels, making environments more conducive to wellness.

Can olfactory design elements be integrated into wellness-focused spaces, and if so, how?

Aromatherapy can greatly enhance a space’s atmosphere. For example, lavender is known for its calming properties, while eucalyptus can improve clarity and energy. Scents can be tailored to a space’s desired emotional or health outcomes.

What role does spatial organization play in wellness design?

Proper spatial organization can influence personal interactions, flow of movement, and accessibility, all of which affect physical and mental health. Efficiently organized spaces can decrease stress, enhance productivity, and encourage physical activity.

How can lighting design be optimized to support circadian rhythms in environments with little natural light?

Circadian lighting systems that mimic natural daylight patterns can be installed in areas lacking natural light. These systems adjust the colour temperature and brightness throughout the day to support natural sleep-wake cycles, thus enhancing overall well-being.

What are the environmental benefits of integrating wellness design principles into buildings?

Wellness design often overlaps with sustainable design, which focuses on reducing environmental impact. Using eco-friendly materials and energy-efficient systems supports physical health by improving air and environmental quality and contributes to the planet’s health by minimizing waste and reducing carbon footprint.

Conclusion

Wellness design is a transformative approach to creating spaces prioritizing health and well-being. Wellness design can significantly enhance our mental and physical health by focusing on elements like natural light, sustainable materials, outdoor spaces, inclusivity, multi-sensory elements, and more.

As our case studies have shown, this is not just a concept but a reality that is being implemented in residential, commercial, and public spaces.

So, the next time you step into a space, take a moment to reflect on how its design impacts your well-being. After all, wellness design is about creating spaces that look good and feel good to us.

Project Manager (PMP), Interior Designer and 3D visualizer. Member of the Project Management Institute - Netherlands Chapter.

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