"Wellness features, it's more difficult to quantify the effects on people," Hubka said. But that doesn't mean business owners, landlords and developers aren’t trying.
Indicating the popularity of the health and wellness philosophy, IWBI has found partners in the American Institute of Architects, the Cleveland Clinic, other sustainability certification programs like LEED and design giants like HKS — which are all trying to create healthy environments for occupants.
Millennials driving the trend
The ever-increasing popularity of healthy living has something to do with it, but that's nothing compared to the sea change that millennials have brought to the wellness table. "I think that it is a kind of milieu we're in, that we're probably going to stay in, driven by younger people who are much more sensitized to everything from environmental issues to sustainability to wellness and quality of life," said John Kirk, architect and partner at Cooper Robertson.
Offices are the biggest testing ground thus far, according to Hubka, with features designed to make workers happier, and therefore more productive. Food choices, high-quality lighting, water and air all serve to create healthier, energized surroundings, but employers are also adding those nebulous quality of life components like an open-desk, first-come-first-served policy called "free addressing," window seating, quiet rooms, days off to perform charity work, mindful eating areas and stress and addiction counseling.
All considered contributors to wellness — whether certified or not — many of these changes can only be quantified by looking at employee retention, Hubka noted.
Where wellness meets the home
As millennials and other demographics come to expect healthier workplaces, they're likely going to demand it in their living and other social environments as well. Kirk said that in the past, those in the market for custom high-end residences rarely thought twice about the impact of their building on their living environment, but that's starting to change.
"It seems like LEED and sustainability has become more mainstream. The next wave of what's to come is the people."-Dave Hubka, Director-commissioning for Transwestern's Sustainability Services group
Robert Thorne, CEO and co-founder of The Wellness Habitat Company, said many people have started to realize that while their wellness levels have been beefed up at work, diets have changed for the better and exercise routines have gone into high gear, they've been neglecting air quality, toxins, negative-impact lighting and other important health components in their own homes.
Through the state-of-the-art systems that can, for example, introduce and circulate probiotics in the air, diffuse homeopathic scents throughout the home at the push of a smartphone button, coax residents into a natural circadian rhythm and create stepped water purification systems, homeowners can create a space that connects the dots of their attempts at a healthier lifestyle, according to Thorne. "Your house now starts working for you," he said.
Wellness Habitat also serves the up-and-coming wellness needs of the hospital, hotel, office and multifamily industries. These features can help guests quickly overcome jet lag or help with hospital air quality. Of course, many occupants of high-rises or other residential developments are interested in being as healthy as possible as well.
As millennial-inspired ideas of work-life balance spread though the marketplace, that trend will alter corporate culture, particularly as millennials begin to take over in executive positions and ownership, according to Kirk.
"It seems like LEED and sustainability has become more mainstream," Hubka said. "The next wave of what's to come is the people."