What does it mean to design places that are “good for people”? Our team at RNL has been looking at that concept as it relates to our definition of sustainability for some time. As designers, architects and planners, we believe we have a responsibility to create spaces and places that have a positive impact not just on the environment, but also on the wellbeing of the people who use them.
The International WELL Building Institute (IWBI) has made our job easier by putting together a performance-based system for measuring, certifying, and monitoring features of the built environment that impact human health and well-being, through air, water, nourishment, light, fitness, comfort and mind.
Over the last couple years, we’ve been working closely with the folks at Delos and IWBI on a pilot program to apply these concepts to a residential building project in Colorado.
We are aiming to make Lakehouse the first certified WELL multifamily residential building in the state.
Since we believe that wellbeing can (and should) be an integral component of our built environment, we wanted to start the dialogues about what that looks like in a residential project.
Air – In-line filtration systems to filter outside air brought into units.
Water – For this particular project, we actually didn’t need to do much because the City of Denver’s water already meets the water quality thresholds of WELL. As an added feature, we’ve included bottle fill stations in key areas to encourage residents to use refillable bottles vs. single-use plastic bottles.
Nourishment – This concept is pretty cool. Our client is looking to partner with restaurant vendors who are aligned with the principles of healthy, local food. These restaurants could even potentially provide healthy food cooking classes to residents via the demonstration kitchen we’ve designed. Additionally, we are working with Agriburbia to install a managed rooftop vegetable garden on premises designed to provide residents with access to fresh, hyper-local produce.
Light – The sun is the best source of circadian-friendly lighting and minimizes the energy use of electric lighting, so maximizing daylight is a win-win for mind, body and environment. Our lighting team conducted extensive daylight modeling to optimize natural light in the building. The result is ample daylight during the day and blackout shades in each unit for nighttime, aligning with our circadian rhythms.
Fitness – In addition to amenities such as a fitness and spa facility, the overall design and layout of the building itself promotes an active lifestyle. For example, an inviting three-story stair brings residents to the amenity level, promoting the use of stairs vs. the elevator; the fitness center is en route to the units; and let’s not forget that one of Denver’s best jogging paths (Sloans Lake) is right on the doorstep.
Comfort – In addition to meeting all accessibility requirements, we’ve actually exceeded code requirements for sound separation between units (no one likes hearing their neighbors), and provided additional controls in the unit to help keep people comfortable.
Mind – As mentioned in the lighting section, a key contributor to a healthy mind is achieving a good night’s sleep. In addition to paying attention to daylight during the day, darkness at night, and offering a circadian lighting fixture upgrade package, we are also applying the principles of biophilia. That’s where we directly and indirectly incorporate natural materials and patterns into the building’s design. For example, porcelain tile that looks like wood planking surrounds the pool and reclaimed naturally finished wood will line the lobby walls. Even the form of the 12-story tower is meant to evoke water flowing over stone.
Health and wellness awareness – In addition to supporting an active Colorado lifestyle through the amenities and location, a guidebook on the WELL Building Standard and the relevant features in the building and units will be provided to each resident, a library of health and wellness material will be set up, and discussions are taking place about diving deeper into helping residents with personal health tracking and monitoring. Stay tuned!
While this particular building is designed to provide the ultimate in comfort and amenities, our feeling at RNL is that occupant wellbeing is something all projects can achieve. Whether that’s a commercial office building, a transportation and maintenance facility, or a home, all people deserve a place that helps them be their best physically and mentally.
We don’t want our clients and communities to simply sustain their status quo, we want them to thrive. More and more clients are recognizing that, and we look forward to seeing how the idea of the design-wellbeing connection in the built environment develops!