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Transform your home to transform your health

First-time buyers, as well as those downsizing and upgrading their homes, are increasingly listing wellness design and built-in high-tech health and fitness features as a leading requirement in their house hunt. We spoke to leading design and wellness expert Jamie Gold to discover what’s driving this trend, what’s coming next, and what it means for you and your home
Jamie Gold
Jamie Gold

Jamie Gold, CKD, CAPS, MCCWC, is a wellness design consultant and the author of “Wellness by Design: A Room-by-Room Guide to Optimizing Your Home for Health, Fitness, and Happiness”. Follow Jamie on Instagram. Visit jamiegold.net.

With a wealth of knowledge and a passion for creating spaces that promote well-being, Jamie Gold has been at the forefront of the wellness design movement. Her expertise spans across various aspects of interior design, architecture, and health, making her a sought-after authority in the field. We caught up with her to discover how COVID-19 and other factors accelerated the demand for wellness real estate.

What have been the key factors driving the priorities and expectations of homebuyers now towards wellness amenities and features?

 “The single most powerful game-changer was the pandemic. Before that, there was interest among people concerned with toxins in their homes, allergies, and sensitivities, as well as accessibility and aging challenges. Covid-19 made it painfully clear that our home environments had a profound relationship with our health and safety.”

What other factors are pivotal in driving this convergence of wellness concepts with home design?

 “Aside from Covid, I would say that an aging population, embracing differences in abilities/mobility, the Flint water crisis, fears of what’s pouring out of our faucets, and powerful hurricanes and wildfires ravaging our homes and lives have all had impacts.”

What are the strategies or innovations that contribute to the economic success of wellness-focused real estate projects? And how successful are they?

“Developers are trying different approaches, some worthwhile, some just ‘well-washing.’ It really varies widely. In California, where I live, there’s been a tremendous increase in accessory dwelling units (what we used to call ‘granny flats’) to increase housing stock on single-family properties. That has been very helpful in making multi-generational living possible, which benefits the well-being of the entire family.

“Unfortunately, too many ADUs [ADUs provide an additional living space with separate entrances, kitchens, bathrooms, and living areas. They offer solutions for increased housing density, multi-generational living, and rental income opportunities while utilizing existing infrastructure and land] are not truly grandparent-friendly, in that they’re not terribly accessible for people with mobility challenges.

In terms of how successful the wellness real estate industry is, it’s broad and fast-growing. One recent industry study showed that 95% of those surveyed believe that a home impacts the health of its occupants, and 73% will consider health when choosing their next home. I’ve been covering this industry for almost 20 years and had never seen such figures pre-pandemic.”

What cutting-edge technology applications are driving the wellness experience within the home?

 “Voice control and home automation have the potential to help quite a bit. For example, remote control window coverings can keep older adults from falling when reaching above tubs or countertops to lower shades.

Also, biophilia [the desire or tendency to commune with nature] is something many developers are keen to incorporate into wellness real estate. It has been measured in hospital settings and has demonstrated that patients with views of nature outside the window have healed faster and with less pain medication. I can see these benefits extending to the home, and I’ve shared them in my book ‘Wellness by Design.’”

To what extent is the wellness home approach being applied to rental, social/community housing?

 “I think awareness of wellness design does have ripple effects, in that people become more interested in its potential and start focusing their priorities and purchases in that direction. They learn about the impacts and solutions and can make better choices. You can see that in communities developed or rebuilt post-disaster.

“Resilience fits into wellness design, as does indoor air quality to address pollution, smoke, and ash. You also see it in communities choosing to electrify. While it’s being done for sustainability reasons, the benefits of switching from gas to induction cooktops, for example, include healthier air, reduced fire and burn risk, and faster clean-up.”

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