Jessica Neal

by Jessica Neal

Architectural Designer

Seven Dimensions of Wellness

  • NOVEMBER 08, 2019
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Dimensions of Wellness in the Built Environment

The term “wellness” is often associated with physical health, exercise, and nutrition.

Wellness, however, is much more dimensional and quite multifaceted, manifested as an integration of seven different dimensions: Physical, Spiritual, Emotional, Social, Intellectual, Occupational, and Environmental.

While the comprised balance of each dimension is an equation unique to everyone, all need to be addressed in order to achieve our own version of quality health and well-being.

As an architect and designer, knowing statistics like the fact an average American spends roughly 90% of their time indoors, creates an opportunity to influence wellness through human-centric design in the built environment. By articulating the dimensions of wellness through intentional design, spaces can address all seven dimensions in an effort to improve overall wellness of individuals and the community.

By exploring each dimension and demonstrating practical applications through projects, a deeper understanding can be developed about the power of place, setting up success for wellness in any built environment.

Physical Wellness

The physical dimension of wellness is most obvious and requires that we take care of our bodies by getting regular exercise and proper nutrition.

Building physical strength, flexibility, and endurance all help to achieve optimal physical wellness. By promoting diverse fitness amenities in the design for the second phase of Pointe at Polaris residential development, this new community will be at the forefront of health and wellness. Not only will this development have access to bike storage and a walking path, the majority of the on-site amenities focus on physical fitness; including an eighty-two foot long lap pool with a sauna and massage room, weight room, yoga studio opening to the outdoors, as well as peloton bikes with virtual fitness training. Being intentional focusing on human-centric design creates accessibility to physical wellness for residents, cultivating a community that encourages active lifestyles.

Pointe at Polaris, Phase II, Site Plan by Kleingers

Social Wellness

Social wellness is built by developing and maintaining healthy relationships with others.

It creates a sense of belonging, whether that be at work, at home, or in your neighborhood. The Whitehall YMCA is all about bringing the community together, and in a recent project we were able to emphasize this core value through design. The newly completed renovation added a central spine, brightly lit with clerestory windows, which unites the new fitness space and the large, multipurpose meeting spaces. This spine acts as a main artery for social connections and interactions, with the apex occurring at the centrally located lobby and reception desk. Reaching through the building from the public entry to a quiet outdoor space, this main corridor encourages and invites you to be an active member in the community.

Whitehall YMCA, Partial Floor Plan

Intellectual Wellness

By continuously challenging yourself to expand your knowledge and skills, you can improve your intellectual wellness.

This dimension of wellness encompasses creative and stimulating mental activities that require a person to utilize different resources available. In designing the University of Findlay Center for Student Life and College of Business, the goal was to inspire creativity and foster innovative learning and collaboration. The two-story, light-filled central gathering space allows for a visual connection to the educational spaces wrapping around the second floor. Rather than locating professors’ offices in a separate wing, they are distributed throughout the classrooms on the second floor to make professors more approachable, inspiring students to participate in active learning and question asking to improve intellectual wellness.

Center for Student Life and College of Business, University of Findlay

Occupational Wellness

The occupational dimension of wellness refers to preparing for and participating in work that provides personal satisfaction and life enrichment.

Similar to Intellectual Wellness, Occupational wellness encourages continuous learning within your field to build upon your unique skills and talents. When challenged to design a new home office, pre-fabrication shop, and warehouse for Mid-City Electric, it made sense to create a central gathering space to literally bridge the gap between installers and project management. The central café and training room are used for professional development training sessions in addition to being the heart of social gatherings for the company. Mid-City also had the unique opportunity to showcase their talents in a meaningful and rewarding way by incorporating their trade skills into the environmental graphics and branding throughout their office.

Mid-City Electric

Environmental Wellness

Nature and the environment are an integral part of our lives, and as such, the environmental dimension of wellness relates to being aware of nature and our immediate surroundings. It is also tied to our ability to understand and recognize how our daily habits affect and impact the physical environment and vice versa.

In an effort to further the College’s mission of advancing wellness, M+A is working with The Ohio State University College of Nursing on the renovation and expansion to Newton Hall aimed to meet both LEED and WELL Building Standards. The transitional space separating the existing building from the new addition features a multi-level Winter Garden of Wellness. In addition to the expansive areas of glazing offering plenty of daylighting and a sense of the natural surroundings, this interior garden features local vegetation to help increase local flora and fauna. By designing to highlight and preserve the natural environment, this new facility will undoubtedly improve the environmental wellness of those who experience it.

OSU College of Nursing Newton Hall Expansion, Site Plan by ikon5

Emotional + Spiritual Wellness

In many ways, Emotional and Spiritual Wellness are closely intertwined as they are both tied to personal values and beliefs. The emotional dimension is the ability to identify, respect, and manage your feelings, values, and attitudes. Additionally, it relates to understanding and appreciating the feelings of others through empathy.

Spiritual wellness is about finding purpose, value, and meaning in your life, with or without organized religion.

Both dimensions rely on establishing peace and harmony in our lives. In a time of great distress, victims of domestic violence will find refuge at the Little Fork Family Advocacy Center. This comprehensive care center is purposefully designed to reduce stress and promote healing through the use of curvilinear walls, calming views to nature, and whimsical dichroic glass creating a sense of wonder as light filters through public spaces. By providing diverse seating options in the public areas, it allows guests to feel more in control in finding a unique space that feels most comfortable and safe for their circumstances. Incorporating elements of biophilic design and playful nature-inspired art aide in providing a soothing distraction and moments of natural respite. Combining these design principles helps to provide families a calming space offering a renewed sense of safety, healing, and hope.

Little Fork Family Advocacy Center

Each of these dimensions plays an important role in contributing to a person’s overall sense of health and wellness. While we may not always see it, the built environment can have a significant impact on our health and well-being. By designing spaces, buildings, and communities that aim to address a holistic integration of all dimensions of wellness, we can positively impact the future quality of life.

Jessica Neal

by Jessica Neal

Architectural Designer

Jessica is a driven designer with a diverse project experience and portfolio. She has a love and talent for bridging the gap between architecture and interior design. When she's not at work, she's likely thinking about or planning her next trip; her favorite vacation spot is Dublin, Ireland.