Wellness Architecture & Design Initiative Trends

Wellness Architecture is a Mega-Trend in 2022 and Beyond

The way people work, live and socialize has changed dramatically for most of us during the pandemic. Newly embraced lifestyle and workplace shifts, coupled with an increasing focus on climate change, has opened the gates wider for investors, developers and designers to further explore design possibilities for this new paradigm.

Some of the related sub-trends include:

TREND 1: Blurring Lines Between Our Internal and External Environments

Our outside has become an extension of our inside with greater emphasis on outdoor flexible live-work spaces and accessible, even interactive gardens, walkways and featured spaces that provide engagement and learning. These outdoor areas are no longer considered mere spaces to have breaks but instead, they have become integral parts our daily lives and wellbeing. Conversely, there is a great momentum toward our inside spaces connecting more with our outside environments—from designing for maximum daylight exposure through bridging skylights, terraces and courtyards to reach our everyday live, work and play spaces to integration of outdoor gardens-to-indoor plant foliage, interior colour palettes that connect us to nature, as well as the use of more natural materials. More architects and designers today are embracing biophilic design principles throughout their developments, proven to reduce stress, help regulate circadian rhythms through greater exposure to sunlight (key factors for longevity wellness), and enhance our overall physical and mental wellbeing.

TREND 2: Architecture and Design for Sleep, Rest and Calm

According to the Living Well Index, researchers from Oxford Economics and National Centre for Social Research in the UK, “a good night’s sleep is worth more than quadrupling your disposable income. Better sleep is the biggest single contributor to living better.” Poor sleep can lead to anxiety, depression, dementia, heart disease and strokes, among other health-related issues. Designing spaces for improved sleep and rest are important considerations in master planning—whether considering the directional orientation, the application of ancient practices such as feng shui or vastu shastra, the use of soft, neutral color palettes or designing contemplative spaces for calm and meditation.

TREND 3: Architecture and Design for Mental Wellness

For over a century, we’ve been building, working and living in buildings that have not been supportive (or even harmful) of our physical or mental wellbeing. Research reflects that our health and happiness are impacted by our built environments. Conscious planning, designing and developing for wellbeing is an important responsibility moving forward. This begins with defining the purpose and values of a development project upfront, identifying functional areas and initiatives in which a positive impact can be achieved and communicating these with all the project stakeholders to reach consensus and even further idea generation. Planning for interventions and strategies to 1) ensure high air and water quality, 2) reduce electronic fields especially near sleep and rest areas, 3) maximize sunlight exposure for vitamin D production, circadian rhythm balance and regulation, 4) enhance contact with nature as a means to uplift and restore health and wellbeing, 5) create engaging outdoor spaces, landscaping and places that promote movement and physical activity and greater social connectedness with family, friends and communities, 6) design medicinal and food gardens and places for faith and for learning are just some of the many examples of master planning for mental (and physical) wellbeing.

TREND 4: Soul Architecture

The spaces where we live, work and play can nourish our soul, inspire and heal us. Beyond sustainable design, the concept of ”Soul Architecture” is an evolution of minimalistic design inspired by ancient cultural concepts, such as Japanese “wabi sabi”—the aesthetic of imperfection and impermanence— connected deeply with the wisdom of nature and created to provoke a feeling of serenity, ephemeral beauty and spiritual longing. Soul architecture combines intuition of a place and space in time with a conscious, compassionate approach and the application of multi-sensory considerations, neutral, calming colours of nature, raw materials that age (such as wood, stone, sand, bamboo in their most natural state) clean lines, graceful, tranquil, soulful places to simply BE; where the embodied spirit resonates in our soul.

TREND 1: Spiritual and Numinous Moments in Architecture

Creating spaces that ground, connect and uplift us is an essential part of daily rituals in a fast-paced, ever-connected digital era. Creating moments for mindfulness, introspection and connections is taking all kinds of shapes in our homes, workplaces and communities, from DIY meditation coves to contemporary, non-faith-based temples open to the public.

TREND 2: Deep Integration of Nature

This is biophilic design like we have never seen it. Whether it is more time at the family cabin, the treehouse resort, or updating the backyard as a sanctuary, nature has become our place to reflect, to entertain and play, and to recharge our batteries. Gardening is on the uptick, which is a good thing as the microbes in dirt trigger our neurons and make us happy.

TREND 3: Mass Migrations Cause the Building Industry to Boom

With the ability to work remotely, people are renovating their homes, relocating to rural regions, and second homes are becoming primary residences. All of this is creating high demand across the architecture, engineering, and construction industries with unprecedented lead times in the supply chain and rapidly increasing costs on both materials and labor. However, even with rising project costs, people are still choosing to move their projects forward, as a year of low spending has created savings that are stimulating economic growth.

TREND 4: Wellness Spaces Transform Our Homes Forever

Wellness is a theme, and people are investing in design and DIY treatments to immerse themselves in all things wellness, engaging with designers as well as doing what they can at home to integrate important routines. Often, solutions are simple, from wellness color schemes to aromatherapy, music, plants, and stenciled messages of love and resilience on walls. The premise is that any daily activity, such as exercise, mediation or spiritual practices, demands designated space or even a room within the home, as these rituals are every bit as important to our wellbeing as the kitchen is for eating, the bedroom is for sleeping, and the bathroom is for hygiene.

TREND 5: The Microscope Is on Home Life

After a year of working from home, the home office is here to stay, but maybe not in the way we would have thought. Rather than separating work lives from home lives, people are reevaluating their lives and living situations holistically and with a new focus, one that puts work in balance with self-care rituals and family health and bonding. The office has gone digital, and with less need for filing cabinets, the old office is now the new wellness room, and the laptop has migrated to the dining room or elsewhere in the home.

TREND 1: Prescribing Light

Science shows light is not just something we see by, but a necessary nutrient to fuel our health. Proper fixtures in buildings can improve mood and biological health by ensuring hormones are regulated by circadian-accurate color and intensity throughout the day. Additionally, light can be used to purify surfaces and the air, including light fixtures that kill viruses, bacteria and microbes. In today’s world, lighting is providing solutions to fighting Coronavirus.

TREND 2: The Architecture of Sleep

Design and the built environment have an impactful role in optimizing sleep. Go beyond sleep products to ensure fundamental features in the sleep environment are set up to enhance your sleep behavior. Air quality, light, acoustics and even materials are essential to restorative design. With the fundamentals right, you can then decide if and how sleep technology can further augment your rest.

TREND 3: What to know about Electromagnetic Radiation & the Built Environment

In a world where the third wave of technology will rely on “noisy” Electromagnetic Radiation infrastructure like 5G, there is much we still don’t know about the impact it will have on human and planetary wellbeing. However, design can thoughtfully integrate precautions into essential spaces in your home and workplace that create an ER sanctuary.

TREND 4: Race to Net Zero

With the release of the IPCC “Special Report on the Ocean and Cryosphere,” the accelerating economic costs of climate change, and the inevitable impact on geographical borders, weather patterns, and growing geopolitical migration/tensions, buildings that serve the future must be Net Zero as a new minimum. It isn’t about using less or “offsetting” one’s impact anymore. It is about the net usage/net emissions that we, as mankind, are putting into the earth’s atmosphere.

TREND 5: Earth, Humanity & the Cosmos: How Ancient Design Practices Optimize Wellbeing

With “Energy Medicine Gets Serious” featured as a top trend for 2020, the Wellness Architecture Initiative will be exploring the role of energy in the built environment. Experts from the world of feng shui, vastu shastra, earth acupuncture and sacred geometry will be interviewed to discuss how ancient cosmology informs the design of the built environment in order that spaces resonate with the spiritual dimension and reflect the synergistic relationship between “Mother Earth” and our own “energy bodies,” as understood by ancient practices. These ancient principles are more timely now than ever in our chaotic modern times and are the missing link in creating environments that support true wellness.

The Global Wellness Institute serves as an umbrella organization for numerous Initiatives, that are independently chaired and run. The resources, editorial, research and opinions presented by the Initiatives do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Global Wellness Institute.