If there is one constructive thing that can be associated with the pandemic years of 2020-2021 it is that for many, healthcare and wellness have taken on the critical sense of ownership, due to personal necessity. Many, because of this virus, are newly focused on health maintenance, mindfulness, and well-being. Associated with that, is a greater understanding of the multiple, hybrid dimensions of wellness and health, especially in the multi-trillion-dollar business of the real estate. As one of the real estate investor participants said of this paradigm shift, “Wellness used to be an amenity: now it is a requirement.”
To allow a greater understanding of how health and wellness is expanding the shape of more healthful living spaces — residences, apartments, condos, or whole communities — the Global Wellness Symposium, brought to fruition by the Global Wellness Institute — invited real estate experience-based speakers to discuss their projects. The subject diversity of these speakers were noteworthy: those from architecture, design wellness, retreats, resorts, and those investing in them, all spoke to their commitments of creating a greater sense of mind/body health and healing, within the exterior and interior spaces.
I was fortunate to be a virtual participant in this symposium, and in November will be an active – not virtual–participant in the Global Wellness Summit, in Boston.
From the many exceptional speakers in this symposium, those chosen in parts 2 here and 3 in process, defined new trends and methods in their particular disciplines.
Paul Scialla, CEO– founder of Delos – explained his personal history of wellness, as did many of the speakers. His awareness of the wellness idea came to him after he realized its rightness and moral clarity. He remembered a statistic that changed his ways of thinking: that 90% of human lives are lived indoors. He began thinking of how to balance the preventive medical intentions of health and wellness within a built environment. DelosLiving is the energized concept that is creating the balance between the $200 trillion-dollar real estate industry and wellness, with a goal of using the built environment as a medical tool for greater health. As Mr. Scialla said, “Wellness is a right, not a privilege.”
CLODAGH—She is a major architect/designer who was an early adopter of the idea that great design and wellness are in mind/body confluence, where integrative medicine involves both ancient and cutting-edge methods. She was one of the first to adopt Feng Shui, chromatherapy and biophilic design in her projects, whether in hotel, residential, spa or hospitality spaces. She explains that it took a virus to make many of us see and feel things differently — and, thus, to take wellness seriously. Her projects all include the functions and confluences of the five senses — sight/sound/taste/touch/smell — and her projects include one more: a sense of the evanescent flow of space, all of which, she believes enhances the sense of wellness within the space in which the person lives.
Veronica Schreibeis-Smith, CEO and Founding Principal, Vera Iconica.
The founding assumptions of architecture are evolving, as Ms. Schreibeis-Smith reports, as contemporary wellness architecture involves a new integration of numinous moments—defined as a transcendental experience where one is in contact with the vital, the fascinating, and the mysterious—in everyday environments.
She asserts that today’s “always on” culture needs such moments to be embedded into secular and sacred architecture alike.
Within the general thinking of how we live now, there is a paradigm shift, due to the pandemic. The difference between how people have lived life pre-pandemic, and how people wish to live now and in the future post-pandemic, must be reflected in architecture, with the taproot being the importance of wellness, mindfulness, and intention. Ms. Schreibeis-Smith relates Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy to this wellness paradigm shift as she explicates differences from those on the most primitive end — cave living where all life was a struggle — to growing needs of safety, then, needs of love and belonging, then needs of esteem, to the final need for self-actualization. The esteem needs are where luxury usually fits in, but the aperture to this concept has significantly widened to include greater pursuits of enhancing the quality of life, while optimizing physical and mental dimensions of mindfulness and community.
Part of this paradigm shift is reimagining the spiritual functionality of life’s routines into rituals. This reimagination can be seen in the methodology of architectural room use — a bathing room instead of a bathroom, a sleeping room instead of a bedroom and the like.
Steve Nygren — Serenbe
Steve Nygren is the founder and CEO of Serenbe, one of the first “agrihood” communities in the United States. As he revealed in his presentation, he was a restaurateur who realized he had to do something else with is life — he wanted to walk, to eat organically grown food, breathe clean air, and have a better life for himself, his wife and his daughters. He wanted also to escape “rut” thinking — thinking that is not improvisational, and is too structured and scheduled. So, he bought some wooded property outside Atlanta and called it Serenbe. It grew into a wellness community, with a strong connection to sustainability and the natural world.
“I wanted to create a place where people could live, not just exist,” he said. So to that end, the residences with porches, have been built closer to the street and sidewalk, the back doors of homes looking out on greenspaces. The residents often grow their own food, and have community kitchens also. It is a multi-generational, communitarian way of life, allowing neighborhoods to grow deep roots, allowing legacy and land stewardship to be Serenbe’s visionary platforms.
Chip Conley: MEA – Modern Elder Academy
Chip Conley is a developer of unique communities related to regenerative ideas. He plans, as he said, to disrupt retirement communities, and change the way retirement age and beyond, is perceived. He started the first MEA in Baja California Sur, near Cabo San Lucas.
He is now is beginning in second in Galisteo, New Mexico, 2500 acres, and hopes for it to be a midlife wisdom school – where the retirement age is 54 and up. He does not want elderly or middle-agers to be in an age apartheid situation, so he is building these communities to create intergenerational interests and legacies.
There were many other topics and thought leaders at this symposium that produced meaningful research, and new ideas based on this research.
Finally, the Symposium presented three investors who worked in industries and for companies that real estate brokers, architects and developers knew well: Joanna Frank, President and CEO of The Center For Active Design, Kevin Davis, Senior Managing Director of Capital Markets for the JLL’s Hotels and Hospitality Group, US; Eric Duchon, Global Head of Real Estate, Blackstone; and Jonathan Flaherty, Global Head of Sustainability and Building Technology Innovation, TishmanSpeyer.
When asked about the impact of wellness and sustainability as benchmarks of future investment/building decisions, they were all in agreement. Ms. Frank, who was the moderator of this panel, asked a very simple question: how has the pandemic changed the attitudes and minds of those in the hospitality and hospitality investment fields?
Mr. Davis said, and others agreed, that the pandemic put the need for cleanliness in offices in overdrive. Building systems, advanced water and air filtration systems have been requested and provided. Wellness has now moved from an asset to an asset requirement. There is green financing now, and there are new hotel brands that deal specifically with wellness and well-being, through greater sustainability. Many credit decisions are now being based on sustainability assets.
With these ideas now extant, and related to how the negative pandemic created the positive building and interior design outcomes, it is easy to remember the words of Alexander Graham Bell: ”When one door closes, another opens.” Now, the door has closed on pre-pandemic lifestyles, supplanted daily by a growing commitment to the creation of more mindful, healthful, intentional, and sustainable ways of living, both in-house and office and out in the world.
Image Source: Pixabay