By Gareth Ellis, Associate Architect, CAD Architects
Wellness architecture is an approach which recognises the impact that the built environment can have on our overall health and well-being. It grows out of a belief that the spaces we live in can either help or hinder our physical and mental health. So wellness architecture aims to create cleverly designed buildings that promote wellness and thereby help to improve our overall quality of life.
In touch with nature
One of the key features of wellness architecture is the integration of nature into the built environment. We are hard-wired to respond positively to nature. Regular exposure to nature has been proven to reduce stress levels and improve our mood.
Having access to relaxing green spaces can be hugely beneficial and is one of the factors driving the demand for ‘inside/outside’ living. Architectural features such as large bi-folding doors can allow us to experience the feel and atmosphere of nature while still within the confines of our home.
This connection to nature can be enhanced by elements such as plants and water features, while the use of natural, sustainable materials in the construction of buildings can also strengthen this sensation.
A related aspect of wellness architecture is the use on non-toxic materials, such as paints and finishes with low levels of volatile organic compounds. Many older homes utilise fibreglass as an insulation material, but this can release particles that can cause inflammation. Natural, safer alternatives include wool, cork and cotton.
Light and air quality
Our internal body clocks need daily exposure to natural light in order to function properly. Access to natural light can have beneficial effects on our alertness, coordination and blood pressure.
So wellness architecture will often seek to make maximum use of natural light and will find creative ways to help the light flow to all parts of the building, while also using furnishings and wall finishes which make the most of the available light. It is also important to make careful choices about artificial light, using full spectrum bulbs which more closely mimic natural daylight.
Another important facet of wellness architecture is the internal air quality of the building. Over recent years, there have been many advances in our understanding of the factors that cause poor air quality and the way in which pollutants can build up within our buildings.
Big improvements to internal air quality can be made through the careful selection of building materials and the implementation of modern ventilation and filtration methods. HVAC stands for heating, ventilation and air conditioning system, an integrated approach that uses various technologies to control the temperature, humidity and purity of air within a building. HVAC systems can be used in both domestic and commercial environments.
Wellness architecture in commercial buildings
Not surprisingly, the trend towards wellness architecture is already having an impact in the commercial sector. Its principles can help improve office environments, leading to more satisfied and more productive teams. Within retail and hospitality, the wellness approach can help businesses to distinguish themselves from their competitors and create a more enjoyable experience for their customers.
A major development in the UK which was built with wellness in mind is the Bloomberg headquarters in London. This incorporates natural ventilation for maximum fresh air, a smart airflow system that automatically adjusts according to how many people are in the building, and an on-site water treatment plant that collects and reuses rainwater from the roof. There is a high-ceiling atrium which is flooded with natural light and used as a restaurant and meeting place for staff, which includes a green ‘living wall’ with hundreds of plants.
How have we utilised Wellness Architecture?
At CAD Architects, principles such as wellness architecture have informed our approach to many commercial projects.
Our award-winning redevelopment of Lemon Street Market in Truro transformed a building that had been dark and uninviting. We installed glazed panels that stretched up into the gables of the building. These flooded the interior with natural light. In addition, a lantern skylight was installed that ran the full length of the roof to help produce an amazingly bright and airy interior space. This has created an environment that is sunny and welcoming, one where customers are happy to linger. It has been described as ‘an oasis in the centre of Truro.’
A similar approach was taken when we designed the new ‘Next’ retail outlet at Kingsley Village. A key feature of our design is the use of a fully glazed façade made with structural glass. This means that all the floors are flooded with natural light, creating a more satisfying shopping experience for the customers. It also has the practical benefit of helping to show off all of the merchandise to better effect. This impressive use of glass, combined with the curve of the roof and the elegant shape of the building, has helped the building to become a landmark in its local area.
When you work with CAD Architects our team will listen carefully to your aspirations for your project and make sure that we fully understand your goals. We use all our skills and experience to devise proposals to meet your expectations. Throughout the architectural design process, we are always looking for ways to add value to your completed building.
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