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Mindful : February 2019
Force of Nature Since the launch of WELL in late 2014, its healthy-building standards have been applied to more than 860 proj- ects around the globe, some 300 of which are spread across the United States. Although most of these Ameri- can projects encompass office space, others completed or are being prepared for the cer tification process include a retirement community in Colorado, an environmental charter school in Penn- sylvania, and a pricey 15-stor y condo development in lower Manhattan’s historic Flatiron District. At last count, WELL projects could be found in only 33 states, with one- third of them located in New York and California. As a result, while this emerg- ing phenomenon shows promise of dynamic expansion, for the moment, at least, few stand to reap the rewards of a building certification process designed to enhance human health and well-being. It’s still possible, however, to real- ize the benefits of WELL by applying its standards to your own living space, be it a wide-open manor house or a dinky studio apar tment. The WELL Mind concept, for example, identifies a wide array of features that play significant roles in our cognitive and emotional health, including one in par ticular that can be readily adapted in any home: biophilia, the human affinity for the natural world. Interestingly, people benefit from direct contact with foliage, natural light, and other environmental elements, but also from exposure to images of the outdoors, and even to objects inspired by the shapes and patterns found in nature. Research has demonstrated, for instance, that hospital patients not only heal faster by having plants and flowers by their Here’s one WELL-inspired strategy for feeling right at home. bedside, but also by having a window in their room with a view of trees. Similarly, prisoners confined to maximum-security cells were found to show positive behav- ioral changes after being allowed to watch nature videos for 40 minutes a day. But plopping a lone Venus Flytrap on a coffee table is unlikely to tamp down blood pressure or help throttle the heebie-jeebies. “Biophilic design is not intended to be just about a plant here or a water feature there,” says Vermont- based architect and biophilic-design consultant Elizabeth Calabrese, AIA. “It’s actually about tying nature and natural systems and processes into our lives.” To that end, Calabrese advises that we think about our living space as a little ecosystem, whether that means filling it with a variety of greenery able to thrive in the available light; or incorporating natu- ral materials like pottery, tile, or a wood table; or relying on dappled light filtering through trellises that fill the home with patterns that change throughout the day. In addition, you can bring nature into your living space via views of a flower- filled window box, bird feeders, or water features, which provide the added benefit of helping to drown out the sound of traffic and other noise. A porch swing or rocking chair will connect you to the outdoors, as will sheer cot- ton window coverings fluttering in the springtime breeze. Every little bit helps, Calabrese says, although overloading your home with such elements can actually sabotage the goal of crafting a healthy ecosystem. “Balance is the key,” she adds. “More isn’t necessarily better.” AT HOME PHOTOGRAPHBYLINDSAYCRANDALL/STOCKSY 68 mindful February 2019