Wellness may be a hot topic, but not everyone is sure what it means.
Every year one topic seems to dominate real estate. This year it’s wellness. Yet, if you ask designers and architects what comprises wellness in he home you are apt to get a variety of responses ranging from connections to nature to spaces for meditation or yoga to air quality. Some might point to certifications such as Wellness Within Your Walls or the WELL Building Standard or biophilic design. Others say LEED and other green certifications address wellness.
“I think health and wellness is still in the ‘public education’ stage of what it means. All last year you’re hearing it more and more and more. But I still think it’s educating the designer,” and the public, says Beverly Hills designer Christopher Grubb, president of Arch-Interiors Design Group. Designers often understand the term as it applies to LEED accreditation or to aging in place, but not necessarily the overall concept.
“It might mean one thing to one person and something else to another,” says designer Allie Mann with Case Architects and Remodelers in Washington, D.C., noting that some might be caught up in the movement without fully understanding it.
“I think that this is really being driven by a lot of consumer behavior. When it comes to the builder-developer world, I think our consumers are much more educated. I think they know what they want. They just don’t know how to get there,” says Angela Harris, creative director and principal of TRIO, an award-winning, market-driven, full-service interior design firm in Denver.
“Health and wellness is a new frontier for all of us, says Jacob Atalla, vice president of sustainability for KB Home. KB Home, along with Hanley Wood, KTGY Architects and Delos, a tech and wellness company, created a concept home outside of Las Vegas in Henderson, Nevada, to illustrate what a home designed with wellness as a core value looks like and how it functions. “It is the home story of the future,” he says.
Even though wellness seems to have suddenly burst onto the housing scene in the last year, the idea of connecting home to health is not new. More than 20 years ago, health issues potentially linked to building materials and toxic conditions such as black mold gained attention, giving rise to the term sick building syndrome. Since then, awareness of the relationship between the built environment and health has been growing. A decade ago, new technologies led to the development of products that either reduced the level of toxic contaminants released into the indoor ecosystem or scrubbed the air of VOCs (volatile organic compounds). Other concerns about noise, water and connections with the natural environment were also beginning to surface. At the same time, health and wellness was becoming an important value for consumers worldwide, expanding beyond fitness to include personalized medicine, mind-body connections, spa, wellness tourism and also the built environment.
By 2015, wellness had morphed into a $3.7 trillion industry worldwide, according to the Global Wellness Institute, and climbed an additional 6.4 percent annually to reach $4.2 trillion in 2017. One of the fastest growing sectors in the wellness space is a category called Wellness Lifestyle Real Estate, which includes everything in the built environment that incorporates wellness elements in design, construction, amenities and service. In addition to physical well-being, wellness real estate also addresses social wellness and mental, emotional and spiritual wellness.
The biggest difference between homes designed to promote wellness and homes that address air quality or other environmental factors that impact physical health is that wellness is integral to the design and permeates every aspect of the home from floor plan to amenities. “Overall you are programming the home to be more livable,” says Harris.
Frustrated by the lack of attention to the ways in which indoor environments influence health, Phil Scalia, a former partner at Goldman Sachs, founded the initiative that eventually became Delos, which has been on the forefront of wellness in the built environment for more than 10 years. In 2014, Delos established the WELL Building Standard, which was initially applied to commercial buildings. Over 1,200 projects in 45 countries, across over 250 million square feet of commercial real estate, fall under the WELL umbrella. The WELL standard focuses on seven categories of building performance: air, water, nourishment, light, fitness, comfort and mind. Additionally, it takes connections between a building and the surroundings into consideration.
During groundbreaking work on EcoManor, the first LEED Gold certified single-family residence in the U.S., designer Jillian Pritchard Cooke discovered that both consumers and design and construction professionals lacked accurate information on how to reduce toxins in the interior environment. That was the inspiration for Wellness Within Your Walls, another wellness certification that offers education on building and designing healthier interior environments. The focus is on materials both for construction and also furnishings and finishes.
Another more recent wellness initiative centers around the principles of biophilic design and the benefits of bringing natural elements into buildings. In 2016, Amanda Sturgeon, a biophilic design expert and CEO of the International Living Future Institute spearheaded the Biophilic Design Initiative. In addition to designers, builders and architects, current proponents include tech companies who have added natural elements to buildings to increase productivity and reduce stress for workers.
This year, it’s fair to say wellness is coming home as attention shifts from commercial to residential applications. The KB ProjeKt Home takes wellness in residential structures to the next level. Not only are established practices regarding connections with the outdoors, indoor toxins and air quality embedded in the design, but a synergy with smart home tech transforms wellness from a passive attribute into one that is active.
“The motivation was to examine how we can make the home healthier and at the same time how do we engage that home in partnering with the occupants, with the people living in it, to enhance their health and wellness or engage them in making the environment they live in better. We know that about 90 percent of our lives are spent indoors, and a lot of that indoor living is in your own home,” Atalla explains. Recent research from Hanley Wood shows that homeowners believe housing is essential or extremely important to good health, and two-thirds say the right housing environment could cut annual medical costs by 40 percent.
Central to the home’s wellness quotient is an innovative smart system, dubbed DARWIN, developed by Delos. This first of its kind, home wellness intelligence network constantly monitors the home environment and interacts with and adjusts systems in the home as needed. A network of sensors built into the walls — there are nine in the ProjeKt Home — constantly tests air quality.
If it detects problems with air quality, containments or chemicals from everyday products, DARWIN directs the climate control systems to bring more fresh air to that room. Water quality is also monitored, and purified water is delivered to every fixture in the home. “You have a wellness intelligence system that is constantly doing things on your behalf to increase your wellbeing,” says Atalla.
The system also monitors the plumbing system and alerts homeowners to leaks. Sleep is an important wellness component and the master bedroom in this home is primed to promote slumber. Special noise-damping drywall ensures quiet. Motorized shades block out exterior light. “Total quietness, total darkness, and circadian rhythms help you sleep,” adds Atalla.
Lighting is another mainstay of wellness formulas, both natural light from large windows and expanses of glass as well as interior lighting keyed to circadian rhythms. DARWIN adjusts lights to match the time of day. But what makes this function more worthwhile is the homeowner can change the lighting to produce a desired effect, which means the lights can create an energizing morning environment even if morning comes at 5 a.m. on a stormy day.
A living garden wall enables the home to grow herbs and microgreens. Turning the home and kitchen into a place to produce healthy food is an emerging area of innovation for kitchens.
Social interaction is another wellness component, and community design increasingly takes social interaction into account with spaces such as walking trails, parks and coffee houses designed to encourage interaction and encounters among residents as part of everyday life.
It might seem like a big jump to add wellness to typical new homes, particularly production homes, but Atalla says the KB ProjeKt Home is an example of what can be done. Additionally, Harris says it’s often an easy tweak to add features such as water filtration in the kitchen and master bath. “That doesn’t cost a whole lot. And again, I think it’s just about livability and how you’re programming your floor plan to be more livable.”
Looking ahead, most research points to continued growth of the wellness economy, with new initiatives approaching wellness from the perspective of design, construction, materials and function. There are now more than 740 wellness real estate and community developments built or in development across 34 countries — a number that grows weekly according to the Global Wellness Institute.
Right now, the $134 billion wellness real estate market is about half the size of the global green building industry and projections call for the pace to continue. “But the wellness market isn’t just growing, it’s extremely dynamic. We believe that the three sectors that represent the core spheres of life will see the strongest future growth — wellness real estate, workplace wellness and wellness tourism — while other sectors will also grow as they support the integration of wellness into all aspects of daily life,” says Ophelia Yeung, senior research fellow, GWI.
Artist and inventor Bandana Jain works with recycled and eco-friendly materials to create one-of-a-kind artwork for the home.
Sharing a deep concern for the environment, the contemporary artist has been creating artwork using corrugated cardboard for the last seven years. She crafts unique furniture for clients — from couches and desks to tables and lamps.
She is also the founder of Sylvn Studio, a business dedicated to conserving the environment. The India-based business is the country’s only design label specialized in hand-crafted décor products made of recycled corrugated cardboard.
How did you first begin your work with cardboard? Why did you choose this medium?
Initially, I worked with a few other mediums. To choose cardboard as a signature medium was a conscious decision I had taken because I wanted to offer something different. Also I wanted to educate people about adopting sustainable lifestyle.
How has your journey with this medium shifted in the last seven years?
It only grew with time. Corrugated cardboard is certainly not an easy medium to work with. I struggled a lot and over time I gathered experience and maturity to handle this medium. I must say nobody can touch me now.
Why is it important that designers/artists use recycled and eco-friendly mediums and that homeowners choose to purchase these types of artwork?
We are all the children of the earth. The existence of our being is intrinsically connected to nature. As responsible humans, it is for us to ensure that we build a better place for ourselves and subsequent generations to come. This can happen only when we make the right choice.
Why should homeowners incorporate these pieces into their homes?
A well-designed interior accessory revs up the design quotient of your abode. And every accessory in a home is akin to an individual chapter in the overall design narrative. It defines the space and tends to be a conversation starter because of its exclusivity and aesthetics. Who doesn’t want to be talked about?
Where do you gather inspiration for your creations?
Inspiration comes to me from a myriad of spaces. As an artist, my observations and experiences guide me. My choice of medium is also a part of my experience. Once I was in Zermatt where I had the chance to explore the Eco Village; the determination of the locals to keep the town sustainable inspired me a great deal.
Photos courtesy of Bandana Jain
Artfully integrating into today’s modern hospitality environments, Sans Hands faucets use electromagnetism to streamline the hand washing process and reduce the spread of disease and bacteria.
By Brielle Bryan
Driven by growing concern over germs and bacteria on restroom surfaces, more hospitality environments are turning to hands-free, automated faucet technology. Sonoma Forge, located in Sonoma County, California, combines craftsmanship and skilled metalwork with its unique line of designer faucets, tub fillers, shower systems and coordinated bath accessories.
Sans Hands, Sonoma Forge’s sensor faucet technology, offers an improvement over outdated infrared technology with its invisible sensors. Sans Hands incorporates an electromagnetic proximity sensor, and is packaged in stylish designs that perfectly fit today’s modern industrial style.
“Rather than relying on old, unreliable infrared technology, Sans Hands allows users to skip the frustration of frantic hand waving and enjoy the stylishly unique bathroom décor,” said Erik Ambjor, president of Sonoma Forge.
Sans Hands faucets use the basic principle of electromagnetism. Simply speaking, the components include a spout, a low-voltage current from an electrical source — either battery or plug-in — and an electronic brain supplying an electromagnetic field to the spout. When a user approaches the faucet, the electromagnetic field is interrupted, which opens and closes the valve.
Sans Hands faucets are handcrafted and assembled by skilled artisans. They also come in wall-and-deck-mount configurations and are available in a wide array of finishes. A suite of coordinating bath accessories, including decorative hardware, towel bars, tissue holders, mirror mounts and more complete the industrial look. The refreshing design options offer homeowners a decidedly masculine sense of style that enhances any setting, whether urban loft, country villa or boutique hotel.
Photo courtesy of Sonoma Forge
In light of the environmental climate, we’ve seen governors and business leaders from both political parties join together in support of sustainability efforts. Tourism and real estate industries are also stepping up and using their own money and resources to maintain their commitment to helping Mother Earth. Palmetto Bluff, Hualālai and Mayakoba are a few example of leading resort and real estate communities paving the way for a better future. This is how they are doing it:
- David Chai, director of natural resources, has revitalized the area with a coastal wetland ecosystem featuring native plants, fish and wildlife.
- The Marine Life Advisory Committee manages fishery resources at the Kaʻūpūlehu shoreline.
- The Natural Resources Department at Hualālai maintains an aquaculture program to raise fresh seafood.
- The property offers interactive educational programming, including behind-the-scenes tours for guests and children.
Palmetto Bluff is the largest remaining waterfront property on the East Coast, a 20,000-acre nature preserve in the heart of South Carolina’s Lowcountry. When Crescent Communities purchased the land in 2000, it created the Palmetto Bluff Conservancy to ensure that the stewardship practices of previous owners were continued. Crescent set out to develop the community with one priority: preserving the unique natural environment of the property.
- ensures the Bluff’s natural resources and vast wildlife are not only intact but flourishing.
- operates with an “anti-developer” mindset, slashing the originally planned 8,000 homes to 4,000.
- ensures a portion of all sales go to the non-profit organization.
- offers educational events for both owners and guests.
- was specifically created to be a model luxury enclave that preserves and protects the beach, jungle and wildlife for future generations.
- employs a team of onsite biologists to conduct general monitoring of the over 200 species of birds and wildlife to ensure favorable physical conditions.
- implemented a project to rehabilitate its coastal ecosystems in order to increase sea levels, rebuild coastal sand dunes, recover reefs and create new coral barriers.
- received the Sustainable Standard Setter Award from the Rainforest Alliance and the Ulysses Prize for “Responsible Tourism Development” by the United Nations World Tourism Organization in 2011.
R16, pictured above, is a lighting device that is made up of the components that it is shipped with, emulating simplicity and zero-waste design techniques. All photos courtesy Salone del Mobile.Milano.
“I think that as a designer nowadays we should not think we are all making the antiques of the future […]. We should create products that can be part of a circular system, and are designed considering what material goes into the product and what it leaves behind after use.
— Christien Meindertsma, Designer
Adopting eco-conscious behaviors and the search for sustainable, eco-compatible and environmentally friendly products is an approach that is beginning to manifest within the domestic walls, both in the choice of furniture, furnishings and materials that have a positive impact on the planet and in the increasingly efficient and waste-free management of energy resources.
It is part of a wider trend towards cutting adverse effects on the eco-system which is slowly filtering through into all fields of design application, generating eco-friendly alternatives for every sort and kind of product. Companies and designers are becoming mindful of sustainability in relation to manufacturing processes, embracing the principles of a circular economy and experimenting with raw materials made from recycled waste. The design sector is beginning to take the entire lifecycle of things into consideration, paving the way for innovative practices such as the creative re-use or harnessing of biodegradable materials.
This is one of the many examples of the fact that this approach entails no sacrifice in terms of looks but generates new expressive trends and different tastes. The sense of gratification or aspiration no longer derives simply from the immediate benefit to our domestic or work environments but also – looking forward especially – from just how much the entire planet is set to benefit.
This macro-trend breaks down into three micro-trends that describe its different applications and facets: Zero Waste Design, Upcycled Materials, and Low-Impact Living.
1. Zero Waste Design
The Zero Waste philosophy originated in the food world, where new “surplus” yet still perfectly good food consumption sales models and practices are being generated. The concept is slowly but steadily being embraced by all manufacturing sectors in response to the pressing ethical need to conserve resources that are far from infinite. It also employs a panel of Opinion Leaders, both national and international, selected ad hoc for their knowledge of the research subjects (design, architecture, interior design, interior architecture) and for their ability to take a look at the themes of design and creativity.
In the design world, this means taking on board the concept of circularity, minimizing manufacturing waste, and planning not just the durability of objects but also their disassemblability and their capacity to be recycled or disposed of.
Zero Waste means experimenting with the use of innovative materials and researching biomaterials that help lower the environmental impact of furniture and furnishings, enabling them to become biodegradable, like organic waste. The conceptualization and creative process thus becomes strategic, channelled by design thinking and applied to the entire manufacturing chain.
Country: Holland | Section: Lighting
R16 is a light, or rather, a light made from its own packaging. Design studio Waarmakers has come up with a response to the extremely critical sector-wide problem vexing manufacturers: packaging that, in most cases, once it has served its original purpose, becomes waste that needs to be disposed of, implying high financial and environmental costs. As cardboard tubes are not just extremely hardwearing but also neutral in tone and looks, designers Simon and Maarten decided to pay homage to such a versatile material by making it an inherent part of the product itself. The cardboard packaging contains the LED light and the various components needed for mounting and suspending it. A perforated section of the tube/packaging is then removed, leaving room for the light to shine through; then a simple pencil is all that’s needed to hold the LED rod in place. A personal touch ensures that no R16s are alike.
Zero Per Stool
Country: South Korea | Section: Furnishings
The designers at South Korea’s Hattern studio set out specifically to make a product without generating any waste at all. The upshot was the Zero Per Stool seat and informed its characteristic appearance. The stool consists of two parts – legs and a seat – one made from the offcuts of the other. The legs are made from rectangular sheets of white oak, shaped to slot together, obviating the need for any other material. The offcuts are broken into bits and put into a mould that is then filled with resin, ensuring that no two finished articles look exactly alike. The arrangement of the bits of wood is different every time and the resin can take on different colors, its consistency lending an artistic touch to their variability.
Country: France | Section: Furnishings
Many independent producers and designers are now electing to make biodegradable domestic furnishings. One such is Alki, a Basque design collective which, in keeping with the eco-friendly approach that marks out all their projects, has come up with Kuskoa Bi, the first fully biodegradable bioplastic chair.
The collective, based in a valley overlooked by the Pyrenees, specializes in integrated production methods for creating eco-conscious, comfortable and elegant design pieces by using natural and environmentally friendly materials and resources. Specifically, this chair boasts a particularly enveloping shell, designed to provide optimum back and arm support. This is a shape that can only be achieved by using plastic materials.
This is where the idea of experimenting with bioplastic comes in. It is already used in several different fields, such as car manufacturing. Bioplastic is a polymer with similar characteristics and properties to plastic; it can also be injected, extruded and thermoformed but, unlike plastic, is made 100% from plant-based products (beet, corn starch, sugar cane etc.). This means that the material is completely recyclable and biodegradable, using an industrial process. Added value is brought by the fact that its production leaves a low ecological footprint, given that it uses fewer greenhouse gas emissions. The seat rests on a solid base of solid wood from sustainable forests.
Country: Holland | Section: Furnishings
Dutch designer Christien Meindertsma has come up with an alternative use for linen fibre for manufacturing furnishings, which has earned him not one but two Dutch Design Awards. His Flax Chair is made entirely of this textile fibre combined with PLA, polylactic acid. Two naturally derived materials, serving to ensure that the finished product is totally biodegradable.
Produced by Label Breed, the chair is made from a single panel of this composite, from which first the seat is cut and then the legs are made from the offcuts. This ensures that there is virtually no waste.
The designer spotted the tremendous potential of linen fibre, both because of its valuable qualities and because the plant flourishes at those particular latitudes and requires little investment in the way of resources. Following the success of this first experiment, Meindertsma is now considering creating an entire range, which will include both different chair colors and other furnishing pieces such as tables.
2. Upcycled Materials
The coming together of recycling and design is informed by the increasing awareness that materials and objects destined for the waste basket can be upcycled to produce something completely different.
The concept of waste as a resource forms the basis for all creative recycling processes. Poor materials, reclaimed materials and waste generated by manufacturing or consumption mark a new frontier for design and for designers who seek to upgrade them creatively while effectively helping to protect the ecosystem.
Turning things that would otherwise be discarded into items of value helps increase the utilization efficiency of available resources and provide a further spur to developing new technologies and creating new aesthetics through design research.
Country: Spain/Italy | Section: Lighting/Tableware
Lucirmás is a design studio in Barcelona founded by Italian designer Lucia Bruni, who has embraced the practice of upcycling, using traditional hand production techniques to turn glass bottles into hardwearing and functional domestic objects.
Environmental awareness is the implicit premise underpinning the concept of every product put through each of the manufacturing stages and is evidenced by the use of recycled materials, the optimization of production waste, the adoption of sustainable packaging systems and the fall in energy wastage.
Thus glass bottles that would usually end up in the garbage bin become a valuable resource for making lamps and original table accessories. LaFlor Lamp, for example, is a pendant lamp that features a bottle with a made-to-measure copper shade, while Dama Lamp is a table lamp made by reusing an ordinary 5-liter carafe set on a base of wood from sustainable forests, also handmade by local craftsmen.
Country: South Korea/New Zealand/Holland Section: Furnishings
Newspaper takes on a whole new lease of life in the hands of Eindhoven-based Korean/New Zealander Woojai Lee and his idea of Paperbricks. Turned into pulp and mixed with glue, it becomes a much stronger material than paper that has been recycled several times, and can be used – like a brick or a wooden plank – both in furnishing and in building structures.
The designer has used these modular components to create two series of stools, benches and coffee tables, which exploit the different qualities of paper. The Pallet series highlights its solidity and geometry, while Sculpt contrasts the regularity and smoothness of the seat with the raw, organic look of the legs. The two-fold texture of the bricks has the appearance of marble, while being soft and smooth to the touch, rather like a fabric.
The different surface treatments call for different processing techniques. The “hard” pieces are moulded, while the plastic or irregular ones are hand-modelled. The designer is already working on another collection, which might well include bookcases, shelves and partitions.
Country: Thailand | Section: Lighting
Cassava is one of the most common crops in Thailand, so much so that at some times of the year, farmers are faced with overproduction, generating huge amounts of waste and pollution. Designer Anon Pariot saw a way out of the problem by conferring an aesthetic and symbolic value on the raw material, preventing it from being discarded. This led to the creation of the Penta lamp collection, built on a pentagonal module that is not only reminiscent of the cassava leaf, but also imparts the correct strength to the structure.
The material is vacuum pressed, making the plant fibres solid and hard. This ensures that the components are not just extremely lightweight but are also ideal for generating a pleasing, warm light. The pendant light takes on a spherical or hemispherical shape according to how the pentagons are arranged, making it suitable for many different domestic applications. Another eco-friendly consideration is that the material itself is 100% recyclable and gives off no toxic substances, while any defective pieces can be reused and incorporated into another lamp.
Country: UK | Section: Furnishings
600 million pine trees are felled for timber in Europe every single year. What caught young Design Academy Eindhoven graduate Tamara Orjola’s attention was the fact that, aside from the wood used in manufacturing, the needles – which account for around 20-30% of the tree’s mass – are discarded and treated as waste.
Her Forest Wool collection, which includes two stools and a carpet, is made from recycled pine needles, finely chopped, soaked, pressed, and turned into textures, composites and paper. Their sophisticated looks and distinctive imprinted surface, reminiscent of the shape of the needles, is proof of the potential inherent in ecological material of this kind and the possibilities thrown up by upcycling leftover waste from mass production.
3. Low-Impact Living
Adopting a sustainable lifestyle within the home translates, first of all, into efforts to cut energy consumption. This is becoming increasingly crucial at every stage of design, from construction to interiors.
This is where next generation smart technologies come in, enabling the energy efficiency of both domestic and office spaces to be monitored around the clock, and becoming an integral part of the domestic landscape.
Leaving a light footprint on the planet on which we live also means that, of the available resources, we should opt for renewable energies that do not affect the delicate natural balance. As has been the case for some time in the food world, designers have also been experimenting with the use of natural “non conventional” raw materials, appropriating the concept of foraging, or harvesting products spontaneously yielded up by land and sea.
Netatmo by Starck
Country: France | Section: Tech/Energy
Netatmo, a French company specializing in smart systems for the home, has worked with designer Philippe Starck to produce intelligent radiator valves that cut up to 37% of domestic heating energy consumption. The valves allow the temperature to be controlled and the radiators turned on and off as desired, to suit the habits, the usage and the composition of the family nucleus, room by room, as well as remotely.
This means that the central heating in various parts of a house can be set to come on only at peak times, avoiding needless waste. The valves are also fitted with sensors that can gauge precisely and in real time all contributory factors — such as the weather, the home insulation, the number of people in a room and whether any appliances are being used – and regulate their use. The extreme functional efficiency of the valves, combined with Starck’s intuitive and minimalist design, makes them suitable for every sort and kind of interior. In the hands of the translucent Plexiglass cylinders they come complete with digital display, and can be customized with interchangeable basic colors. Just like their appearance, the way in which the valves are used can also be customized to the max. They can be programmed to suit people’s lifestyles and the level of comfort desired, creating ad hoc setups in combination with the other smart devices within the home. The valves can be voice-controlled through Siri or the Apple HomeKit as well as via a special smartphone app.
Sea Me Collection
Country: Holland | Section: Furnishings
According to Dutch designer Nienke Hoogvliet, algae will increasingly become a feature of the interior design and architectural world. Aside from their beneficial effects on our bodies, seaweed is finding original application in the textile and construction fields and as an energy resource for buildings. Debate on their use in these fields is wide open.
After years of dedicated study, the designer has produced her first collection Sea Me, which includes a seat, a side table and some bowls, which also serve as a demonstration of all the materials that can be derived from this particular raw material.
First and foremost is a textile fibre, from which the seat is made, created by extracting cellulose from kelp and working it by hand. The result is a viscose-like fabric, but softer to the touch. Hoogvliet also used the seaweed to dye the fabric naturally, with different varieties creating different colors (from green and brown to grey, pink and purple).
The waste from this process is used to obtain the finish of the wooden top of the side table, another piece in the collection, using paint made from bladderwrack, a common seaweed in Holland. Bringing the optimization process full circle, the residue from this latter procedure was used to make the bioplastic bowls, proof of the enormous potential residing in this natural and renewable resource.