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Total Wellness: The Biggest Priority for the Future of the Home

Wellness has become a prominent trend that is important for homes

By Manny Gonzalez, FAIA, LEED AP

It was more than a century ago that Mark Twain said, “The only way to keep your health is to eat what you don’t want, drink what you don’t like, and do what you’d rather not.” A lot has changed during those hundred years and today “Total Wellness” is being embraced and incorporated into our communities.

Communities like Serenbe in the Atlanta metro area and Rancho Mission Viejo in Orange County, California have implemented total wellness. Serenbe’s website describes each of its four hamlets as having complementary commercial centers focused on the elements of a well-lived life: arts for inspiration, agriculture for nourishment, health for wellbeing and education for awareness. Fresh food is another of Serenbe’s natural assets, with a 25-acre organic farm, seasonal Saturday Farmers Market, and a thriving Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program, not to mention edible landscaping, including blueberry bushes along paths and sidewalks.

Rancho Mission Viejo today is home to four master-planned communities. It is also home to The Reserve at Rancho Mission Viejo, a nearly 17,000-acre habitat reserve on the Ranch. True to its roots, it is still a working ranch with 600 head of cattle and has more than 500 acres of citrus trees, as well as crops of avocados, beans and barley. In fall 2015, the new community of Esencia celebrated the grand opening of its first 12 neighborhoods as well as a host of community amenities, including Esencia Farm, that lets residents harvest their own produce throughout the year. Even if residents are not agriculturally inclined, any extra produce is available at the Farm Stand.

“Wellness has always been a priority for Rancho Mission Viejo,” said Paul Johnson, executive vice president, community development, Rancho Mission Viejo. “From our robust RanchLife community programs to state-of-the-art amenities for residents that promote fitness and movement, and the miles of hiking trails on The Ranch, the lifestyle found on The Ranch is a healthy and happy one.”

Johnson continues, “Our most recent resident survey shows that 85% of people agree that living in Rancho Mission Viejo is beneficial to their overall physical health and 92% of people found the leading characteristic of Rancho Mission Viejo was its closeness to nature and open space.”

Total wellness isn’t just about community design though, it also needs to be included in the home design. Water comprises over half of our body weight and air pollution is the 5th leading cause of mortality. Air and water quality in the home is a major part of the healthy home. There are many companies that manufacture purification systems and monitoring systems, but Delos is probably the industry leader. For a price starting at $3,500, homeowners can buy a Delos product called Darwin that gives them wellness readings that include air and water quality. And living with the COVID-19 pandemic is probably going to make systems like this not just an option, but a typical part of all new homebuilding.

The American Institute of Architects is elevating sustainable design by calling for all new buildings, developments and major renovations to be carbon-neutral by 2030 in its 2030 Challenge. In 2018, firms participating in the 2030 Commitment saved 17.7 million metric tons of CO2, which is equivalent to the carbon emissions that would be avoided by taking all the cars in Georgia for an entire year! The goal is to have participating firms develop new sustainability approaches and create a companywide culture that exemplifies sustainable design and, at the same time, helps clients save money by further integrating energy analysis and metrics into their practice.

This isn’t just an American movement; the global wellness industry grew 12.8% from 2015 to 2017, according to the 2018 Global Wellness Economy Monitor. That’s twice as fast as the overall global economy grew over the same period. Over $1 trillion was spent on personal care, beauty and anti-aging with healthy eating, nutrition and weight loss spending topping $700 billion.

The Global Wellness Institute sees “J-Wellness” as one of the major trends going into this year. Japan is the longevity nation; it has more centenarians per capita than any other country. They see it as a result of Japan’s unique culture of wellness, which unites ancient healing traditions with people-focused tech design and innovative social policy. Dan Buettner notes this in his book, The Blue Zones: Lessons for Living Longer from the People Who’ve Lived the Longest. This New York Times bestseller examines the lifestyle, diet, outlook and stress-coping practices that allowed the Blue Zone population such longevity. It also spawned the Blue Zones Kitchen, a cookbook based on Buettner’s research.

As Jane Goodall once observed, “You cannot get through a single day without having an impact on the world around you. What you do makes a difference, and you have to decide what kind of difference you want to make.” Communities like Serenbe and Rancho Mission Viejo show that builders and developers today are making a difference, one that is having a positive impact on the total wellness of their residents.

Manny Gonzalez, FAIA, LEED AP, is a principal with KTGY Architecture + Planning. He can be reached at 818.632.5314 or