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Designing for Wellness

Wellness is a buzz word at the moment - but What is it?

Wellness is generally used to mean a healthy balance of the mind, body and spirit that results in an overall feeling of well-being.

But, can we translate that idea to our homes?

Imagine if your home actually made you healthier, more energised and impacts you in a positive way!

Healthy homes are going to mean different things to different people. Not one size fits all approach. You may have heard already about the nasties to avoid in your home environment, but what do you need more of to encourage wellness in your home?

I have developed 7 key elements to keep in mind. These can be considered for the Design for new homes, existing or rented homes;

1. Sun

  • Th sun has positive psychological effects which contributes to your wellbeing as well as meeting a physical need for vitamin D.

  • Practical features of sunlight are to dry out excess moisture in rooms, preventing the growth of mould.

  • Natural lighting is essential, locate your living spaces to north with some smaller east and west windows.

  • Warmth in winter from direct north sun to naturally heat your home.

  • Summer shade and dappled light can be relaxing and calming.

2. Clean Air

  • Indoor air quality can impact greatly on your health since we spend a large amount of time indoors.

  • Pollutants can be 2-5 times more concentrated indoors than outdoors.

  • Indoor air quality refers to the temperature, humidity, ventilation and airborne pollutants in the indoor environment of your home.

  • Passivhaus design includes a detailed look at indoor air quality, but other than that currently it has been overlooked in current standards. Watch this space!

  • Fresh air is essential as high oxygen levels are beneficial to sleep and for those with asthma.

  • Use Natural ventilation, taking advantage of our south west winds to flush out stagnant air in the home. Open windows on opposite sides of the home.

  • Take note though of the outdoor environment where your air is coming from – do you need to create to microclimate outside your windows to reduce dust, to filter traffic odours with landscaping or built structures?

  • Reduce potential air pollutants inside by using low VOC paints, furnishings with low formaldehyde content and EO joinery as well as more natural products – wool, jute, sisal.

  • Cleaners, air fresheners, insect sprays, scented candles and cooking can also pollute your indoor air so ensure that spaces can be easily flushed when needed and consider making changes to sensitive products for use inside your home.

  • Search out new building products that are healthy - magnesium board & Hemp walls absorb co2 and other air pollutants over their lifetime, strawbale walls with a lime render allow walls to breathe.

3. Temperature

  • Indoor ‘thermal’ comfort, is where you reach a personal level of comfort – not to hot and not too cold, which can have a positive affect your mood and mental health.

  • This includes being warm in winter, cool in summer.

  • In this climate of Warrnambool we have annually 35 cooling days and 159 heating days, so keeping warm is our main focus for comfort here!

  • You can make your home more comfortable by altering the built fabric by adding more insulation, double glazing windows, having internal thermal mass as well as personal control by having adjustable features such as shades, a heat source, fans etc.

  • Also refer to the ‘energy neutral’ page which has some great tips for making your home more energy efficient which in turn increases your indoor thermal comfort.

4. Nature

  • A connection to nature can be calming, reducing stress and enhancing overall mood.

  • Research & studies have shown that views of nature accelerates the healing process which is now beginning to be commonplace in hospitals around the world.

  • Indoor plants can remove impurities from the air, absorb co2 and release oxygen at night.

  • Views to the outside environment or if you don’t have a view photos & landscape paintings can transport you to a serene place, or help you to unwind.

  • Sounds from nature – bird songs, rustling leaves can make you feel grounded in the moment – helping you to be more mindful.

  • Outdoor living spaces become an extension of your home and have a relaxing nature.

  • Herbs in the kitchen or nearby window to aid in healthy cooking.

5. Calm Spaces

  • There is a growing trend and emphasis on the Bathroom becoming a personal sanctuary – where it can alleviate stress, simple ideas like your bathroom floor to be part pebbles to give your feet a massage every day.

  • Bedroom as a quiet rest space – to encourage sleep without distraction.

  • Clutter free spaces, easy to maintain and clean and ample hidden storage go towards creating calm spaces.

  • Low allergy environments can be easily created through the combined elements as noted above.

  • For instance the reduction of mould by well lit and ventilated wet areas, selecting furnishings that are easy to clean or materials that have anti-microbial properties such as natural materials.

  • having clean hygienic areas with sensitive choice cleaners is also an important consideration here.

6. Accessible

  • Ensuring that your home is still comfortable at times of illness, aging or times of limited mobility.

  • Is it safe and easy to move around?

  • Does your home promote independent living for the aged or ill?

  • For some this may mean safer handrails or grabrails, no steps throughout the home & entry or floors that have cork or rubber underlay to support tired knees.

  • Design that promotes a healthy lifestyle and social connection.

  • Locating your home near bike paths or walking trails.

6. Beauty

  • Creating spaces that enrich the senses.

  • Simple yet beautiful engaging spaces can appeal and lift mood rather than a monotonous environment.

  • Colours that evoke personal feelings of calm, relaxation or energy depending on your preference.

Just a reminder LESS of:

Draughts – uncontrolled air entering your home which is not ideal if there is smoke or vehicle fumes outside.

Mould – can develop in moist unventilated areas, not great for our health.

Dark – allows for mould to grow as well as other nasties.

Plastics - that emit volatile organic compounds into the air from your carpet, furniture, joinery, fabrics and glues.

Designing our homes to support our wellness is a great step towards improving the health and well being of ourselves and our families. In time, I hope that this then expands outwards to our workplaces and public buildings and even further to having a positive impact in our community.

I am excited about this aspect of designing homes because I think that it is the missing link to truly sustainable design. It is the human element, the connection that we need to actually live sustainably.

Do you think that all homes should be designed for wellness?

This blog post is an actual talk that was given at the Sustainable Living Festival on 25th February 2017 at the Civic Green, Warrnambool.

#wellness #sustainabledesign #mindfulness #indoorairquality #lowallergy #healthy #thermalcomfort #calmspaces #beauty #nature #accessibledesign

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Fiona Golding is an Architect at Live Architecture, a Warrnambool-based studio, specialising in sustainable design, green buildings and healthy homes.


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