Designing Buildings for Health and Wellness in 2022 and Beyond


Building professionals know it's important to design in ways that will connect with people and serve their purposes as time goes on. 2022 will likely see a year of designing with health and wellness in mind, particularly in the wake of a global pandemic that continues to affect work, home and play. 

Commercial buildings in many industries — retail, education and healthcare particularly — must adapt to shifting values. With the trend of health and wellness in building and design on the rise, here are a few points of focus that can be especially important.

1. Air Quality

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Designing Buildings for Health and Wellness in 2022 and Beyond

Vans Headquarters by Rapt Studio

Air quality is a highly important part of any space, but it can often be overlooked for other factors. Creating spaces that control humidity and dryness and offer good air conditioning and ventilation, using air filters, and even allowing green spaces and plant life in your design can all contribute to higher air quality in the spaces that you design.

Air quality has been a building design trend for several years, but is likely to become even more critical in 2022 and beyond. The effects of climate change, including worsened wildfires and other adverse conditions, have been felt more than ever in the past year — now, governments are investing in building adaptation to incentivize modernizing air quality measures for the health and wellbeing of all building residents.

2. Ventilation

Although this can contribute to the overall air quality of the space, specifically focusing on ventilation is a great way to design buildings that champion health and wellness. Ventilation strategies cannot eliminate risk, but they can diffuse the presence of common viruses — though not enough to overcome person-to-person spread — and help filter out pollutants.

Passive ventilation has financial benefits for clients as well. These techniques can help cut costs when it comes to things like air conditioning and air filters. Having large windows and strategically placed openings can play a large role in creating an environment that effectively moves and filters air throughout each day.

3. Natural Light

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Designing Buildings for Health and Wellness in 2022 and Beyond

Prudential Newark by KPF

A bit more exposure to natural light can be especially beneficial for the health and wellness of everybody in a given space. Not only does more natural light help to uplift the mood, but it can also specifically have a great impact on mental health by increasing energy levels, boosting the levels of vitamin D, and even improving skin.

It's critical to think through natural lighting early on in the design and build process. Besides the health benefits, smart integration of light can make a building more eco-friendly and cost-effective — passive solar design, for example, can control building heat throughout the year and reduce lighting expenses.

4. Green Spaces

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Designing Buildings for Health and Wellness in 2022 and Beyond

US Coast Guard Headquarters by Perkins & Will

Including green spaces in the design of whatever building you are designing can be a great way to put health and wellness first. In 2022, this will be an even more critical trend as health and safety experts aim to balance changing levels of in-person activity with the relative safety of gathering outdoors.

Especially in the urban environment, the opportunity isn't always there to have a sprawling expanse of nature. But that doesn't mean people can't still enjoy the benefits of being surrounded by green space and plant life. 

There are plenty of ways that green spaces can come into play. Many architects achieve this by incorporating green roofs, courtyards and other integrated spaces that don't require extensive square footage.

5. Design Wellness Spaces With a Purpose

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Designing Buildings for Health and Wellness in 2022 and Beyond

Twitter Headquarters Gym by IA Interior Architects

Of course, much of this will be up to the discretion of the people or entities you are designing for, but including design that is specific to the purpose of health and wellness can often be a great idea. 

From features like community gyms, saunas, and balconies all the way to opening up wider spaces for other uses, there’s no better way to encourage health and wellness than to build it into the design of any given building. 

Health and wellness can be both a cornerstone of design and a functional addition to a building — and many commercial facilities managers are eager to incorporate wellness trends for their tenants or companies.

Designing Spaces for Health and Wellness

In the coming year, health and wellness are going to be taking the forefront of so many conversations, including those around building and design. People returning to office spaces will place a high value on ventilation and air quality after time away. Facilities managers looking to rent out residential or commercial spaces will want to meet customer expectations surrounding wellness trends.

As someone who works to serve those you build for, it’s important to pay attention to these trends and design with health and wellness in mind, both for the present moment and for the future.

Evelyn Long is the editor of Renovated, a construction and home improvement magazine. Her work focuses on better building techniques for more sustainable communities.

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