Posts tagged with "Healthy Architecture":

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Wellness design is spreading across hospitality architecture and beyond

Fifty years ago, the term wellness—if it was used at all—essentially meant “not sick.” Then, throughout the ’80s and ’90s, the rise of gym culture and workplace wellness snowballed into an explosion of fitness boutiques in the early aughts. In city centers and upscale suburbs today, specialized fitness boutiques such as SoulCycle, PureBarre, Barry’s Bootcamp, and FlyWheel are nearly as ubiquitous as Starbucks. Combined with the rapid expansion of “health” branded grocery stores, an uptick in haute athletic wear, and a plethora of juice and smoothie companies, not to mention the surrounding media buzz, wellness has become not so much a trend as a booming industry.

Hotel conglomerates took note about a decade ago, assuming that the same kale-juice-chugging travelers frequenting SoulCycle and Whole Foods would want to stick to their wellness routines on the road. In 2010, Wyndham acquired TRYP, a subset of hotels that offers amenities like in-suite fitness equipment, healthy snacks, and an “energetic fitness center.” In 2012, Las Vegas’s MGM Grand introduced 41 “Stay Well” rooms featuring wellness amenities such as  aromatherapy and air purification systems and access to Cleveland Clinic programs for “sleep, stress, and nutritional therapy.” In 2014, InterContinental Hotels Group launched EVEN Hotels with six locations in Norwalk, Connecticut; Rockville, Maryland; Times Square, Midtown East, and Brooklyn, New York; and Omaha, Nebraska. EVEN Hotels not only boast athletic studios, but also in-room personal training, group classes, and the Cork & Kale™ Market and Bar for healthy snacks. The branding, though aggressively green-washed, is apparently successful: Six more EVEN Hotel properties are slated to open in the next few years.

In 2017, fitness companies flipped the script. Luxury fitness brand Equinox recently announced it will open its first hotel in New York’s Hudson Yards development in 2019 with plans to open a second location in Los Angeles soon after. Equinox operates nearly 80 clubs in nine cities in the United States, with additional locations in Toronto and London, with approximately one million members overall. Although sources wouldn’t disclose which architects worked on initial designs, the revealed rendering shows a massive tower, expected to be home to a 60,000-square-foot “super gym” with indoor and outdoor pools in addition to the hotel.

Equinox isn’t alone. Chicago’s Midtown Athletic Club, a tennis-and-fitness center established in 1970, is adding a 55-room boutique hotel on top of its facilities. Evanston, Chicago–based DMAC Architecture spearheaded the design of the addition and the redesign of the existing structure to create a 575,000-square-foot complex that will have 15 indoor tennis courts; four pools (including one that converts to an ice rink in winter); one full-size basketball court; several studio fitness spaces for yoga, Pilates, boxing, and spinning; locker rooms; retail and dining options; outdoor and lounge recreational spaces; as well as other hotel amenities such as meeting and banquet rooms, deluxe suites, and a penthouse presidential suite. “Rather than being 98 percent hotel with 2 percent amenity, [the Midtown Athletic Club] will be 96 percent amenity and 4 percent hotel,” said Dwayne MacEwen, founder and principal of DMAC architecture. “There are three floors of primary club space, with the third being an all-glass in-between space with the lobby, and the hotel component occupies floors four and five,” he explained. MacEwen emphasized that the prevailing design directive is to create something “intimate and choreographed,” eschewing a “big-box-gym atmosphere.”

Designing for wellness rather than merely fitness or hospitality involves a careful consideration of social and nonsocial areas. MacEwen and his team crafted specific spaces for conversation, like the monumental staircase on the second floor; spaces for solidarity, like the meditation room; and spaces for “being together, alone,” like the lounge. “We didn’t want to over program any one room—when you do that no one hangs out there—but we wanted to create an emotional impact through our use of materials, sense of compression, lighting, and wayfinding,” he said.

This strategy continues through the exterior of the landmarked building: The Midtown Athletic Club is located at a busy intersection in Bucktown, and MacEwen was cognizant of its impact on the neighborhood. “People choose to live in the city for a reason,” he said, “so we wanted to give something back to the urban street experience. It is more like an urban island oasis; you feel like you are a part of the city because you can see the traffic and feel the energy, but there is a solitude and quietness to it as well.” The Midtown Athletic Club hotel and renovation is set to be complete early this summer.

As hotels increase the amount of fitness and wellness offerings on deck, boutique fitness brands also feel obligated to provide key hospitality tenets—most importantly, forging a community with and among their members. Principal Chad Smith of Desbrisay & Smith Architects in New York has been working with boutique fitness brand Barry’s Bootcamp since 2012, both designing its studios and contributing to its branding. It is no coincidence that the tagline on the Desbrisay & Smith Architects website is “causing communities.” “We look at the organization of the space, as well as its touch and feel, and explore how the patrons come together and what happens before and after a workout,” Smith explained. This isn’t just “Kumbaya” feel-good vibes. “Boutique fitness companies want their communities to form a gang, not only because it has material impacts on their health and wellness, but [because] it increases retention so the businesses make more money.”

There is no singular approach when it comes to organizing spaces that make people feel as though their intraclub relationships are springing up organically. When Smith worked on CrossFit company I.C.E.’s New York location, he started by examining where and how clients interacted. “In CrossFit, people hang out and talk to each other in the workout space, so we wanted it to be chic and luxurious, very Manhattan,” he said. “Basically we thought, ‘If you had to pick a classic New York space to work out in, something that’s durable and glamorous, what would you choose?’ The obvious answer is Grand Central Station, so we picked up on its material cues, such as brass and dark blue paint.” But behind these sleek walls and floors, there is a lot going on: sound isolation, floating, spring reinforced acoustic floors, and superinsulated windows and walls.

Not only are these technological elements crucial for spaces like Barry’s Bootcamp, where 25 people run on 25 treadmills simultaneously within a mixed-use building, but they are also needed for when people sit completely still.

Meditation centers—that is, places where people go to sit and experience a guided meditation—are still new to the built wellness environment. When designing the Inscape Meditation Center in Manhattan, Archi-Tectonics founder Winka Dubbeldam spent months focusing on a seamless experience for clients. “It demands a different type of precision,” she explained. “If you meditate in all kinds of positions—walking, sitting, lying down—then you are very aware of yourself and the space around you. A few things became quite apparent. I wanted to create a continuum, an immersive environment: Walls and ceilings become one in the Dome; there is clean purified air; there is perfect sound and lighting. All the senses are soothed.”

Inscape has two meditation rooms: The Dome room is a large ellipse, while the Alcove room is smaller and wrapped in textural cloth. Both rooms feature color therapy lights, a smooth transition between the ceilings and walls, and carefully curated sound. “When we first soundproofed the space, we over-perfected it,” Dubbeldam said. “It was too soundproof! It actually hurt my ears. So we had an acoustics engineer come in and soften it and add a small amount of white noise to achieve a more comfortable silence.” The lighting was designed to avoid any pinpointed spots of light; rooms are equally lit, each with a soft horizon line around the Dome room where distracted meditators can focus their gazes and regain their senses of calm.

To achieve this level of design, Dubbeldam created a full-scale prototype in a warehouse in Brooklyn and meditated in it with Inscape founder Khajak Keledjian, who also founded the clothing boutique Intermix. “I see design as a process, a series of tests to achieve moments of precision,” Dubbeldam said. “It looks super simple, but it takes massive amounts of design and engineering. I really feel like that is where architecture should go, and, in our case, is going.”

Evan Bennett of New York–based Vamos Architects concurs.“Environments are shifting dramatically as technology shifts,” he explained. Bennett recently completed Honeybrains, a concept cafe in New York’s NoHo district that serves up information on brain health alongside healthy food options and a honey-focused retail section. Owned by two siblings—one who worked in neurology—the cafe features circadian lighting by Ketra disguised in a clever ceiling-light baffle. “We were careful not to have direct lighting, but instead created a honeycomb pattern that could reflect light off of the interior paneling,” Bennett said. “It lets us hide the track lighting, the AV system, and a projector up there as well.” Bennett admits that spending 30 to 40 minutes in a circadian-light-controlled system might not have major effects on one’s health, but he believes in Honeybrain’s mission to become a platform for discussing brain health and the possibilities of design that straddles the intersection of health and technology.

Though the wellness trend will play itself out and change over time, people-centric, health-focused design will endure in hospitality architecture. Combined with our current propensity toward mixed-use spaces and advanced technology, building boundaries will continue to blur—not only between hotel and gym, but across industries of all kinds.

Want more on wellness? Read how it's influencing the workplace too.

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How wellness is influencing the workplace

As sustainability becomes the new normal, designers are turning their focus to how people are affected by their surroundings and looking to new measurable standards that provide concrete frameworks for making healthy buildings. We examine one standard up close and break down how it can guide a project from start to finish.

Performance certifications like LEED, Passivhaus, and Green Globes have changed the way we think of baseline environmental concerns, but a new set of rubrics looks to build on those standards. The concept of wellness in many ways is an extension of the environmental movement, as it expands the ideals of building performance to the human experience.

There are several programs that fall under these formulas, such as Fitwel, developed by the General Services Administration (GSA) and Center for Active Design (CfAD), and the Living Building Challenge by the International Living Future Institute, which is more focused on the envelope of a building. Both are both great resources for making healthier and more livable places.

The WELL Building Standard® (WELL) is a “performance-based system for measuring, certifying, and monitoring features of buildings that impact the health and well-being of the people who live, work, and learn in them.” It is administered by the International WELL Building Institute (IWBI) and has been employed by engineering firm Arup for its Boston office—designed by Dyer Brown Architects—and by the American Society of Interior Designers for its Perkins +Will–designed headquarters in Washington, D.C. Others, like SOM Interior Design partner Stephen Apking, use the WELL Standard as a guideline for projects outside the U.S., such as the Japan Tobacco International (JTI) headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland.

The key to WELL’s success is its ability to use scientific evidence to support claims about wellness that have until recently been too esoteric. “Research is required to take it from the anecdotal to something that we can clearly define, with added value,” said Apking, who reported that clients are often convinced by the data and metrics that support WELL.

The standards are useful for giving clients an idea of how to design a healthy workplace, said Apking, who explained that the research into the measurable qualities of building environments has led his team at SOM to push wellness more aggressively. He cites a Harvard University study that focuses on air quality. It found that though LEED buildings get to a point where they do help workers, they should also remove carbon dioxide in addition to VOCs. This is how wellness can go beyond environmentalism and how science can help give clients more specific assurance rather than just anecdotal tales of healthy environments.

At Arup’s Boston office, it has developed a physical prototype for simultaneously quantitative and qualitative performance assessments. It sets up a continuous air-quality feedback system that monitors air quality, noise, and thermal comfort. “The sensor kit was a way to connect in a multidisciplinary way with the other parts of Arup that are advanced in building software systems,” said Mallory Taub, sustainability and WELL consultant at Arup, explaining the monitoring system. “Talking about metrics is extremely important for understanding these design strategies and how your space is performing. Is it making an impact on the people who are using it?”

However, it is important to keep in mind that people are not just numbers. Working with its in-house operational psychology team in London, Arup developed a survey with a series of questions that solicit responses that follow the seven features of WELL. How much are employees using sit-stand desks? How are the dining spaces working? How are lighting and acoustic systems working?

Similarly, designer Ilse Crawford—in her book A Frame for Life—explained the design of her London studio:

The space is laid out as an apartment, with the intention of keeping the space as domestic as possible, while allowing for us to function as a creative studio. Throughout we have used materials and elements that stimulate rather than curb the senses: wood, stone, proper rugs, plants.… The office of the future has a lot to learn from the hospitality industry. It should be a place where people feel good and grounded and motivated. The office of the past was essentially about control, a white-collar factory predicated on measurables and human ‘machines’ rather than people.

When it comes to the WELL framework, Apking also said that the early conversations with the clients allow him to organize the projects conceptually around employee well-being from the start. “It is not easy for clients to talk about this. WELL helps us lay out the concepts that we want to pursue in the design.”

To dive deeper into what wellness means in the workplaces, The Architect's Newspaper looks at how the ASID headquarters, Arup’s Boston office, and the JTI headquarters have manifested the seven concepts of WELL.

Air

Designers must address issues of air quality standards, including ventilation and filtration systems, to control moisture and reduce harmful particulates.

The shape of the JTI headquarters by SOM helps to draw in fresh air, which is then filtered by a hybrid system that also conditions the air through a radiant system in the ceiling tiles, cooling the air with chilled water. This produces an “even coolness” that is both energy efficient and comfortable.

Because Arup’s Boston office is on the tenth floor of the building, it replaced the air handler in the building so that it could have all the systems needed and be able to take on more capacity in the future. It also used an on-demand control system that allows different ventilation depending on occupancy. Conversations around cleaning and facilities maintenance are important for keeping up on this feature.

Light

Beyond the simple specification of lighting devices and the daylighting strategies, WELL calls for light to be controlled in more sophisticated ways that mimic natural and comfortable levels and types. Circadian lighting designs and glare controls for both electric and natural lights.

Arup’s lighting designers used the ceiling as a luminous surface by casting light onto it in an even way, reducing glare and dark spots. They also received a WELL innovation credit for their design of an electric circadian lighting system at Arup’s Boston office that changes color throughout the day to mimic natural daylight patterns. This involves more blue tones in the middle of the day and warmer tones at the end of the day, which gives the body cues that the day is progressing. The ASID headquarters includes an automated shading system made by Lutron that senses when to control light levels from the exterior.

Mind

Because the Mind feature is the most esoteric, it requires post-occupancy surveys to be conducted to verify that the design is accomplishing its aims. Beauty, design, and a sense of natural connectivity are all included.

For JTI, SOM created environments that it wanted to make “joyful” and “optimistic.” Working with artist Liam Gillick, it developed a series of colorful canvases that move through the building along a staircase. Additionally, Lake Geneva and nearby mountains can be viewed from meeting spaces, and the cafeteria at the top of ‘‘the building has a stunning vista.

At the ASID headquarters, biophilic design strategies such as incorporating natural materials and patterns are employed alongside spatial and architectural configurations meant to inspire and give a sense of subconscious well-being. Plants give a sense of peacefulness and add a splash of color, while a soundproof meditation room gives respite from the office environment.

Water

While environmentalism focuses on reducing water usage, wellness is about water quality.

In order to guarantee a base level, this feature sets standards for water purity, targeting inorganic and organic contaminants as well as agricultural contaminants and public-water additives.

Because the municipal water testing doesn’t take into account aging pipe infrastructure, Arup added a chlorine filter to the water line of its building to ensure that drinking water tastes great. Arup also upgraded to a sparkling-water dispenser so that everyone remains hydrated. At ASID’s headquarters, placing water dispensers in desirable areas promotes healthy hydration habits, and no one is more than 100 feet away from water at any time.

Comfort

The comfort feature includes thermal, acoustic, visual, and ergonomic criteria, not only considering ADA accessibility, but also protection from noise generated inside and outside the building. At the ASID headquarters, Perkins + Will used donated furniture by Humanscale, including “Quickstand” sit-stand desks complete with the Humanscale ergonomic setup of monitor arms and adjustable under-desk keyboard trays.

Arup’s office used sit-stand desks by Teknion and monitor arms by Humanscale, with smaller individual work areas and more common space. To mitigate noise, the designers used mechanical systems that met lower criteria for noise allowances as well as a range of finish materials that make the space quieter. Armstrong acoustic tiles reduce noise, and the office is fully carpeted with Interface carpet tile that has an organic pattern as part of the biophilic strategy.

Nourishment

By providing quality snacks and office meals, WELL-certified workspaces create an environment conducive to wellness. Transparency about these foods, such as ingredient lists, nutritional facts, and allergy information are required. Unprocessed foods and fruits and vegetables are crucial.

Arup’s Boston office likes to brag that it has one of the best office nutritional programs. At first, employees were reluctant to give up their beloved bagel-and-donut breakfasts, but now the office kitchen has a healthy spread that meets WELL standards, as well as a weekly food delivery with transparent ingredients and nutrition facts clearly stated.

Fitness

The fitness feature requires a design that encourages movement. This can be simply in the form of fitness incentives from the employer, or it can mean the programming of fitness spaces and equipment into the design.

JTI’s continuous landscape loops inside and outside the building both vertically and horizontally right). The stairs circle and weave through the building up through each floor, which gives employees an attractive walking path instead of elevators. The meeting points, such as the conference center and the coffee and dining spaces, are woven through the building. The fitness center is also along the continuous landscape, which gives people the option of working out indoors and outdoors.

Want more on wellness design? Read how it's spreading across hospitality architecture and beyond. Workplace Wellness Resource List Arup Boston Carpet Interface Tile Crossville Paint PPG - Ecos Imperial Countertop Okite Wall Tile Mosa Wood Tree Frog Plastic Laminate Doors and Cabinets Pointe Cork Wall Forbo SOM — JTI HQ White Carrara Marble Stair Treads Staminal Stone Artwork Liam Gillick Carpet Interface Table and Chair Arper Acoustic Metal Ceiling Trisax Pendants Arne Quinze Impact Lighting Stool La Palma Perkins + Will — ASID Task Chairs and Sit-Stand Desks Teknion Humanscale Automated Shades and Lighting Control System Lutron Grade Glazing and Doorway System Haworth Chairs and Tables Steelcase + Coalesse Keilhauer Herman Miller Bookcase and Conference Tables Herman Miller Ergonomic Desk Accessories Humanscale Credenza and Mobile Conference Table Bernhardt Design Television LG Additional Furnishings ATG Stores Davis HBF Additional Finishes Cosentino Shaw Contract Nevamar Sherwin-Williams Armstrong Additional Fixtures Kohler
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Perkins+Will integrates healthy materials into their new Seattle office

On an early May day, Perkins+Will Seattle gave The Architect's Newspaper a tour of their new offices in downtown Seattle, the first of their global offices designed to incorporate their in-house healthy materials initiative research. The Seattle office moved east in April from their prior space on First Avenue above the Seattle Art Museum, to Minoru Yamasaki’s 1977 Rainier Tower on Fifth Avenue. The relocation gave Perkins+Will the opportunity to live-test their healthy materials initiative—putting their research on toxic building chemicals into action on themselves. In 2009, Perkins+Will developed a precautionary list of harmful building materials, compiling governmental agency information about building chemicals that may harm our environment and ourselves.

“We wanted our workspace to reflect who we really are, and to some extent use ourselves as a little test lab. Can we walk the walk?” said Ed Palushock, associate and senior project designer at Perkins+Will who heads up the firm’s Material Performance Research Lab.

“There were a bunch of people who did some research and started recognizing, hey, these chairs that we’re putting in the space have flame retardants [in them] that have a fallout for people’s health. Or, we’re using copper on exterior roofs, and noticing some research being done about elevated copper levels in runoff water. Some copper is good, but too much copper is not so good,” said Palushock. “The goal was to take ourselves out of the equation.”

The Perkins+Will Vancouver office led the Seattle office design, working with Perkins+Will’s Seattle team. The precautionary list informed how the firm approached their new space on a micro level: 32 of the 34 products and finishes met the firm’s healthy materials standards. The vetting process involved a bit of investigation, as some product manufacturers’ ingredients lists were proprietary or incomplete. (Two products that didn’t meet the architecture firm’s requirements: A chromium alloy plating process used to lend a chrome finish to products, and the solar shades. The firm found out after installation that the shades contained 15 percent PVC.)

There was a slight up-charge for specifying healthier materials. “But once [these materials] become an industry standard, it will level the playing field,” said Oliver Wuttig, an architectural designer at Perkins+Will. “The more we ask manufacturers about these products, the less it becomes a commoditized item.”

The Seattle office spans two floors. The main office is 16,500 square feet while a lower level houses a 1,400-square-foot materials library and model shop. But even with close to 120 employees working in the office, the main level—with most of the surfaces white and soft gray—is bright and spacious due to an open, square-shaped floor plan. Workstations with employees organized by teams, a corner kitchen, and meeting and conference rooms run along the perimeter with direct access to natural light and views of downtown and Puget Sound. The firm also has phone rooms for privacy. “We sit people together who are working together,” said Palushock. “Every month or every other month there is a switching around in the office.”

At the core are elevators and an entryway featuring white perforated branded metal screens backlit by LEDs. Along the outer core walls, the firm can display projects and hold critiques. There’s also a social component to the design. Each corner of the office is reserved for flexible workspaces—a kitchen in one corner can double as a meeting room for the whole office. “The kitchen engages people and gets them from their desk, said Wuttig.

The sustainable building industry has made headwinds in the past decade—the United States now has an abundance of certification opportunities such as LEED, the Living Building Challenge, and Cradle to Cradle—the presence of toxic chemicals in products is a persistent issue. “We have wiring lined in polyvinyl chloride (PVC), but it can contain endocrine disruptors like phthalates and Bisphenol A,” Palushock explained. A safer alternative to PVC may be polyvinyltulene (PVT). But it’s not ready for market. “It’s one thing to design a building in terms of the orientation and use healthy materials, but the question is, what are those healthy materials?” he continued.

Perhaps we lag behind Europe on the healthy materials front because of our legal framework and mentality. As Palushock put it, Europe’s approach is to “prove this material is not harmful” while in the U.S., it’s “safe unless deemed otherwise.”

Resources General Contractor: Turner Construction Company Lighting Consultants: Candela Corporation and Stantec Electrical Consultant: Evergreen Electric HVAC, Plumbing Consultant: American Mechanical Corporation