72. Joseph G. Allen, Jim Dobbie & Debra Wyatte – Healthy Buildings, Healthy Lives: A Revolution in Modern Living Spaces

It’s time to rethink our built environments. A thought-provoking concept known as ‘sick buildings’ has come to the fore, raising concerns about our everyday spaces. Historically, buildings were not designed with health and wellness as a priority. As a result, these structures can induce a range of ailments from minor discomforts like headaches to severe health problems like cancer. This lack of consideration for wellbeing becomes even more apparent in rental properties, where cost-cutting and profit-maximizing often take precedence. However, we now possess the knowledge and the ability to make a change. So, the question remains: Why aren’t we doing it?

Professor Joseph G. Allen from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health is an advocate for change in the realm of building design. He spearheads the Healthy Buildings Program at Harvard and has authored the influential book “Healthy Buildings: How Indoor Spaces Drive Performance and Productivity.” An investigator of sick buildings whose team suggests research-backed ways to make them well, Professor Allen was also part of the prestigious Lancet Commission on lessons for the future from the COVID-19 pandemic.

The New York Times lauded Professor Allen’s book as “a call to action for every developer, building owner, shareholder, CEO, manager, teacher and parent to start demanding healthy buildings with cleaner air.” 

Creating healthy buildings is about more than aesthetics and clean air, in fact, under the direction of Professor Allen, Harvard’s Healthy Building Program has identified nine foundations of a healthy building, directly tied to peer-reviewed scientific research, including elements such as lighting, acoustics, safety and security, water quality, and thermal health. With the proper incentive, even older buildings can be made healthy with some investments and tweaks.

Getting people into healthy buildings means building not only with health in mind, but affordability and convenience. Jim Dobbie, noticing the transformation to his father-in-law’s health after retirement due to an active and socially connected lifestyle, was inspired to apply his background in real estate development to create communities that promote wellness. He then founded Zeal for Living; a company focused on incorporating wellness into the design of rental properties. Zeal for Living’s Chief Wellness Experience Officer Debra Wyatte joins this week’s episode to discuss specific offerings of the zeal communities – from front porches to outdoor dining areas and gathering spaces.

Zeal for Living’s approach to wellness hinges on four pillars: Move, Connect, Nourish, and Dwell. These pillars focus on promoting physical activity, social connections, healthy eating, and healthy building design. Their first wellness-focused communities are planned for areas around Dallas, with further sites being considered in Austin and Denver. The pricing strategy aims to match local rental rates, as they strive to provide high-quality, community-focused living spaces at an affordable price.

These discussions are a natural outgrowth of the groundbreaking work of the Global Wellness Summit (GWS) and its sister organization, the nonprofit Global Wellness Institute (GWI).  In 2018, GWI’s 150-page report, Build Well to Live Well, was the first research to size and analyze the global and regional wellness lifestyle real estate and communities’ market—and to predict that the next frontier in residential real estate would be to put people’s health at the center of design, creation and redevelopment.

Then in 2020 one of the eight white papers GWI agreed to produce as part of a Vatican initiative to create a better, healthier and less unjust world in the aftermath of the coronavirus epidemic was called,  Healthy Built Environments for Healthy People describing how our unhealthy built environment can cause both chronic and infectious diseases and identifying the roles that communities, businesses and governments can play in building healthier homes and communities for healthier people.

To learn more, visit Joseph G. Allen’s site at hsph.harvard.edu/joseph-allen and Zeal for Living at ZealForLiving.com View other Global Wellness Institute research here: https://globalwellnessinstitute.org/industry-research/wellness-industry-reports-by-topic-sector

Explore the Agenda for the 2023 Wellness Real Estate and Communities Symposium, including talks by Professor Allen and Jim Dobbie, here: https://www.globalwellnesssummit.com/wellness-real-estate-and-communities-symposium/

This episode is sponsored by Hyatt and their destination wellness resorts, Miraval.  Visit hyatt.com  and miravalresorts.com/spa  for more information. 


Hosted by Kim Marshall.  

Produced by Nova Media

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