When Paul Scialla set out to renovate his Meatpacking District loft, he wanted to transform it into a healthy place to live. However, the former partner at Goldman Sachs quickly learned that ‘healthy buildings’ referred mainly to ecological health, not primarily the health of the inhabitants.
He wondered, “Why stop at environmental sustainability? Why not focus on human and biological sustainability as well?”
Scialla then spent the next six years doing research. The result was a set of metrics that infuse constructed environments with health-promoting features like anti-germ coating on surfaces, six-stage air filters, and shower fixtures that add vitamin C to the water.
He founded his firm Delos Living and used the research to create the WELL Building Standard, which is now on its way to becoming a certification complementary to LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design).
The wellness factors can be completely invisible, such as adding air and water purifiers located out of sight.
Scialla’s own home, for example, contains over 50 wellness technologies and amenities, but aesthetically it’s not evident that the apartment was designed with a health-first mentality.
“It was our intention to create features that did not conflict with design preferences,” Scialla said. “Delos’s healthy designs deliver preventative medicine in a passive way.”
But there are cases when having the amenities visible is preferred—like highly accessible water-hydrating stations and staircases placed in strategic locations so that people use them instead of taking the elevator.
Humans spend 92 percent of their lives indoors but pay surprisingly little attention to things like the quality of the air they breathe, metrics of comfort, or type of light they need.
The WELL Building Standard looks at 23 health domains across seven categories: air, water, nourishment, light, fitness, comfort, and mind. In the years of analysis and research, the team looked at a variety of factors, from medical to architectural and even political.
The firm customizes designs depending on the end user, and has worked with private homes and hotels like the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, as well as commercial buildings.
Healthy habits can, in fact, be built into your home.
“For example,” Scialla explains, “by improving basic features like water quality and availability, people are making conscious decisions to drink more water and stay hydrated.”
By living in healthy environments, people tend to want to seek out healthy lifestyles as well, Scialla has found.
In one home Delos designed, they added a juicer and herb garden to the kitchen as visual cues and reminders to eat more healthfully. These little things end up becoming daily habits, building healthier lifestyles.
Lighting, which plays a tremendous part in a person’s state of mind, is visible but often nearly forgotten.
Delos has provided a major amenity to hotels: Stay Well Rooms, which help busy travelers with jetlag during their short-term stays.
The different types of lighting help reset the body’s circadian rhythm so jetsetters can get a restful night of sleep. Warm white lights improve the body’s internal clock by helping with melatonin production and the sleep-wake cycle.
Blue-toned light for short periods helps energize guests and reverse the sleepiness of stepping off a plane. A “dawn simulator” awakens guests gradually, helping them adjust, and warm LED bedside lights have been designed to enhance sleep.
The company now has 40 projects of all building types in progress worldwide. Delos’s goal of human sustainability has resonated with people beyond experts in health and medicine and the real estate community.
The advisory board includes Dr. Deepak Chopra, a leading alternative medicine expert and best-selling author; actor and sustainability activist Leonardo DiCaprio; megabroker Dolly Lenz; and former U.S. Secretary of Housing and Development Mel Martinez.
“Everyone prioritizes their well-being, longevity, and improved quality of life,” Scialla said.
“It is clear that healthy designs have a significant impact on lifestyle.”
Light. Every aspect of human health is affected by light. Timing, duration, and color affect everything from the hormones that make you feel alert or sleepy, to immune responses.
Air. The average adult takes in over 500 cubic feet of air every day, and ventilation can filter out harmful gases and particles. Poor air quality is responsible for 50,000 premature deaths in the United States every year.
Water. Water is a core component of one’s physical health. A recent study by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention found nearly half of adults drink less than four cups a day—half the typical intake requirement.
Nourishment. Another basic component of health is nourishment, but over two-thirds of Americans consume less than the minimum recommended vegetable intake. Eating poorly can lead to weaker immune systems and excessive weight gain.
Fitness. Exercise improves a variety of fitness indicators, like strength, stamina, flexibility, cardiovascular function, bone reinforcement, nerve cell growth, and stress-reduction.
Comfort. One’s comfort is directly affected by the everyday surroundings, such as the ambient levels of sound, temperature, electromagnetic fields, and lumbar supporting flooring.
Mind. A relaxed state of mind is just as important as physical factors in leading a healthy life. Home monitoring systems that keep track and adjust metrics controlling things like energy consumption can aid a healthy lifestyle.
Source: Delos Living