Design Strategies that Promote Health and Wellness and Elevate the Guest Experience

By Felicia Hyde Design Director, Lifestyle Studio, H. Hendy Associates | October 28, 2018

As our world continues to urbanize, the theory of "biophilia" has grown increasingly important to our health and wellbeing in the built environment. Biophilia, the "love of life and living systems," is the innate human desire to connect with nature and other life forms. The concept was introduced in the 1980s by American biologist, theorist and naturalist Edward O. Wilson who studied how the increase of urbanization has led to a disconnection between people and the natural world.

As a result, biophilic design, the infusion of direct and indirect natural elements into the modern built environment was created to fulfill our instinct to be close to nature. Essentially, biophilic design is the intersection of architecture, nature and neuroscience. Research shows that this holistic approach to design offers many health benefits – from reducing stress, blood pressure levels and heart rates – to promoting creativity, productivity and boosting overall mental and physical wellbeing.

As the human population continues to urbanize, businesses, hotels and apartment communities around the globe are incorporating biophilic design to connect people with environments that promote health and wellness. While this design concept is already shaking up the hotel industry, hoteliers can leverage design strategies from multifamily and residential communities to effectively create spaces that enhance the human-nature connection and elevate the guest experience.

Demand for Biophilic Design Increases

Today, Americans spend on average 90 percent of their time indoors or inside a vehicle. As society becomes ever more dependent on technology, we're getting more and more detached from the natural world. This disconnection has resulted in a substantial increase in our craving for, and relationship with, nature and demand for biophilic design in our homes, workspaces, dining spaces and even travel accommodations. Research shows that by 2030, 60 percent of the world's population will live in urban environments. So, it's crucial that architects and interior designers across all industries commit to elevating the human-nature relationship.

In apartment and residential communities, the integration of natural elements creates an emotional connection for residents – a calming and restorative environment to relax and recharge. Data shows that residential communities that incorporate biophilic design have multigenerational returns such as increased rents and reduced vacancy as a result of increased health and wellness and the memorable experience the property evokes.

Essentially, when people are in a place where they feel good, happy and healthy, they want to stay longer. For hoteliers, this means that properties designed to meet travelers' desire for affiliation with nature can increase their chances of creating an emotional bond with guests that will encourage them to return and recommend the hotel to others. In fact, guests are willing to spend 36 percent more time in hotel lobbies that incorporate biophilic design and pay 18 percent higher average daily rates for rooms that infuse natural elements. Hotels that feature biophilic design also are generating positive reviews with guests mentioning "experience" twice as often.

The state-of-the-art fitness center at Angelene Apartments in West Hollywood features floor-to-ceiling windows, two-story ceiling heights and natural and locally sourced interior elements to encourage wellness, productivity and positive feelings.
Designed to promote health and wellness for residents at Brio Apartment Homes, the lobby features a two-story living wall, stairway made of reclaimed wood and nature-resembling colors and shapes that are seamlessly carried throughout the property.
Broadstone Candara at Hancock Park features a variety of multi-function, indoor-outdoor spaces to promote the human-nature connection including an indoor entertainment bar that opens to an outdoor courtyard with expansive views of Los Angeles.
Vantis, a luxury apartment complex in Aliso Viejo, features myriad indoor-outdoor lounge areas throughout the property. A mega-cabana provides privacy while offering residents direct access to natural light and air with a view of the resort-style pool.
Designed to bridge the gap between residents and the outdoors, Vantis features an indoor-outdoor shared living room infused with natural elements - from reclaimed wood accents, sleek stone surfaces to inspirational graphics.
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Eco-Friendly Practices: Corporate Social Responsibility

The hotel industry has undertaken a long-term effort to build more responsible and socially conscious businesses. What began with small efforts to reduce waste - such as paperless checkouts and refillable soap dispensers - has evolved into an international movement toward implementing sustainable development practices. In addition to establishing themselves as good corporate citizens, adopting eco-friendly practices is sound business for hotels. According to a recent report from Deloitte, 95% of business travelers believe the hotel industry should be undertaking “green” initiatives, and Millennials are twice as likely to support brands with strong management of environmental and social issues. Given these conclusions, hotels are continuing to innovate in the areas of environmental sustainability. For example, one leading hotel chain has designed special elevators that collect kinetic energy from the moving lift and in the process, they have reduced their energy consumption by 50%  over conventional elevators. Also, they installed an advanced air conditioning system which employs a magnetic mechanical system that makes them more energy efficient. Other hotels are installing Intelligent Building Systems which monitor and control temperatures in rooms, common areas and swimming pools, as well as ventilation and cold water systems. Some hotels are installing Electric Vehicle charging stations, planting rooftop gardens, implementing stringent recycling programs, and insisting on the use of biodegradable materials. Another trend is the creation of Green Teams within a hotel's operation that are tasked to implement earth-friendly practices and manage budgets for green projects. Some hotels have even gone so far as to curtail or eliminate room service, believing that keeping the kitchen open 24/7 isn't terribly sustainable. The May issue of the Hotel Business Review will document what some hotels are doing to integrate sustainable practices into their operations and how they are benefiting from them.