Design for Wellness: Strategies to Unite Health & Design

by Madeleine Evans
Dec 27, 2017 8:35 AM ET

Originally published on WELL Certified

Design can be about many things: beauty, symmetry, color - but one of the most powerful elements of building and space design is the opportunity to impact and improve the health and well-being of people. Through thoughtful design choices like strategic placement of drinking water stations, selection of non-toxic materials and lighting that aligns with the body’s circadian rhythms, designers can be ambassadors for public health, a mission that we wholeheartedly believe in.

Here are some of our top strategies for how interior designers can keep the seven concepts of WELL in mind throughout the design process:


  • Select low-VOC materials and those without harmful chemicals to reduce off-gassing of VOCs to limit the likelihood that occupants come into contact with harmful, harsh chemicals
  • Create a healthier entryway that lowers the number of contaminants carried indoors by installing an entryway walk-off system and including an air seal
  • Design a space without permanent wall-to-wall carpeting or hard-to-reach crevices, allowing it to be cleaned more easily and effectively


  • Encourage hydration through strategic placement of drinking water stations throughout the space
  • Consider the installation of additional filtration to enhance both water quality and taste


  • Provide adequate seating to be used during meal times to allow people to engage in mindful eating
  • Use attractive signage and visual cues to encourage occupants to consume healthy foods and beverages, dissuading them from selecting an unhealthy alternative
  • Centralize the salad bar and displays where healthy food is offered, making these the most easily accessible foods and thus the more intuitive choice


  • Select light fixtures that provide appropriate lux and equivalent melanopic lux levels to prevent eye strain while also aligning with the body’s circadian rhythm
  • Reduce glare by positioning light fixtures strategically, shielding them when needed and providing shading on windows
  • Consider daylight contribution in the placement of furniture to allow for access to natural light and views of the outdoors


  • Use attractive features like natural light, art and music to create a more appealing stairwell that incentivizes people to take the stairs rather than the elevator
  • Designate an area for both showers and bicycle storage to facilitate active transportation and exercise


  • Select furniture (such as sit-stand desks) that enables occupants to be more active during the day and offers an alternative to prolonged sitting
  • Create a more equitable environment by designing the space to be accessible to occupants with physical disabilities
  • Include both loud and quiet zones so that occupants can be acoustically comfortable and select their more productive environment depending on their activity


  • Integrate celebration of place and culture into the design to create a beautiful space where occupants are happy spending their time
  • Incorporate biophilic design, drawing upon natural patterns and elements, to allow occupants to feel a connection to nature even while indoors
  • Offer variability in room size, furniture and lighting to create opportunities for productivity as well as refuge and relaxation

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