On March 20, Interior Design hosted the Health and Wellness Roundtable, an industry-focused discussion exploring the ways in which wellness has become an indispensable design paradigm in the contemporary architecture and design scene. In an intimate gathering at Interior Design’s New York City headquarters, 21 designers, manufacturers, and end-users analyzed and debated the complexities of incorporating wellness features into new and existing buildings. The discussion was moderated by Interior Design contributing editor Jen Renzi and Rachel Gutter, the chief product officer of the International WELL Building Institute.
“Two decades ago, the idea of wellness in buildings was fringe,” Renzi began. “Today, it’s fully integrated into how we think about making new buildings and improving old ones.” And according to the magazine’s research, that’s absolutely true. Major trends like on-site gyms, ample sunlight, communal kitchens, and living walls all point to a growing awareness that wellness is the best way to make a first-class building. In fact, the largest project segment that incorporates wellness features is the workplace, followed by hospitality, and then healthcare.
From there, the group dived into some major challenges that come with bringing wellness features to new and old buildings, including: the difficulty of convincing landlords to accept new maintenance codes, the extreme costs of some wellness building improvements, and the orchestration of new values and a cultural shift towards wellness.
"I really do believe that wellness is a holistic solution, and there isn’t one single answer to bringing it to the forefront," said Christine Bruckner, director of M Moser. "There’s always more we can be doing, but every time we push somebody into thinking about a slightly better solution, they can then take that solution and offer it to somebody else. With every decision we make, we’re actually going to be helping one another and helping people around the world.”
Bruckner's optimism carried into a conversation about the integration of technology and wellness. Many of the participants were excited by the idea of integrating wearable tech and biometric sensors into wellness design, generating an industry of actionable health data analysis and contributing to the creation of better spaces over time.
“We’re at a watershed moment,” said Clairanne Pesce, senior designer at Array Architects. “We now have an evidence-based approach to wellness, whereas 20 years ago we were mostly using anecdotal evidence.”
While the industry still has a long way to go before wellness becomes a standard feature in design projects, the excitement in the room was palpable. Everyone at the table felt energized by the possibilities designers and manufacturers are creating every day.