Veronica Schreibeis Smith, CEO and founding principal of Vera Iconica Architecture, has spoken to CLAD about her mission to get wellness architecture on the agenda of the wider architecture community.
Schreibeis Smith will be moderating a Wellness Architecture Forum and Global Wellness Institute Roundtable on the topic in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, in September 2018.
Making the case for an urgent need to improve on the “typically toxic and wasteful conventions standard in the building industry”, Schreibeis Smith said: “The population has never been sicker than it is today. Our bodies are constantly surrounded by chemicals and toxins in our foods and environments. Our ability to remain healthy is like a rain barrel...we can handle a lot, but when our exposure gets too high, we overflow and start seeing environmental stressors manifest as illness or disease.
“From an economic standpoint [wellness architecture] makes sense. Well building developers are assuming a 10 to15 per cent cost increase for healthier building materials and systems. This is recouped by charging a premium for the real estate, as the end users justify this by valuing their health and wellbeing.”
Schreibeis Smith defined wellness architecture as: “The art and science of designing the built environment to empower people to thrive across all dimensions of wellbeing (physical, mental, spiritual, emotional, social and environmental).”
Asked how architects can sell the idea of wellness architecture to their clients, Schreibeis Smith said: “Wellness architecture is essentially an insurance policy to help empower clients to live the lifestyle they aspire to and promote physical and mental long term health. Lifestyle is influenced through ‘nudge architecture’, a practice that uses environmental psychology to help shift behaviour patterns.
“Physical and mental health is influenced by designing with materials that purify the air, or designs with appropriate daylighting to nourish circadian rhythms which leads to healthy hormone production that can assist in the prevention of disease and illness.”
Vera Iconica Architecture was set up by Veronica Schreibeis Smith in 2010 in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, with a focus on ‘how environments impact human wellbeing and planet earth’. The practice recently merged with Peruvian firm Luis Longhi Architecture. Ongoing projects include the Hotel Valle Sagrado in Cuzco, Peru.