Buildings That Promote Well-Being

Buildings That Promote Well-Being

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Kathryn Hitt
Contributed by:
Kathryn Hitt
Assoc. AIA

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Gallery: Buildings that Promote Well-Being

How does the sensory experience of buildings contribute to well-being and productivity?

This was a topic explored in the 7th Windsor Conference in England, where the participants considered the changing context of comfort in an unpredictable world. Their discussions affirmed that an improved understanding of the interaction between humans and their environments offers a chance to add increased depth to building design and make better buildings. They contend that well-being, productivity, and the sensory experience are fundamental and universal concepts concerning the relationship between buildings and occupants. Some of the highlights outlined in the proceedings offer keen insight. For example:

  1. Design improves when the building engineer or architect becomes more of a psychologist and less of a technologist. This allows the thought process to move from an understanding how the building affects our physiology to an appreciation of human psychology. This human-centered perspective may be complemented by a fuller understanding of the sensory experience.
  2. Well-being is not wholly a technical issue it will always have deeply personal and moral perspectives and these should not be overlooked.
  3. Any buildings and its systems can be designed with wellbeing in mind even when that is not its primary purpose.
  4. The science of well-being provides a perspective for designing different sensory interventions.
  5. Understanding the relationship between a building and its inhabitants can result in a wider spectrum of design possibilities and outcomes.
  6. From an improved understanding of wellbeing and productivity new design opportunities emerge.

The following Gallery pages provide some insightful designs from Dallas architects that exemplify how well-being has been thoughtfully integrated into buildings whose actual purpose is to enhance and invigorate personal quality of life. Enjoy!

DSGN Associates
Dallas, TX

The Churchill Recreation Center, built in 1998, was a well-used and well-liked workout and meeting facility in north Dallas that needed a facelift.  A recent 4,480-square-foot expansion included new multipurpose rooms, a larger workout center, and new locker facilities. The design team also provided an expanded outdoor courtyard and improved views of the lush, wooded surroundings. The expansion is oriented for generous natural light and views, and is shaded by steel sunscreens and trellises. Selected materials and patterns in the existing building were reinterpreted and carried into the addition to respect the character of the original, award-winning building while establishing a unique identity for the expansion. The project was completed 14% below budget and the center remained open throughout construction.

Client: City of Dallas Park and Recreation Department
Project Team: Robert Meckfessel, FAIA; Emily Harrold, Assoc. AIA; and Pat Meckfessel
Civil and Structural Engineer: JQ
Landscape Architect: Mesa Design Group
MEP Consultant: Meza Engineering
Construction Cost Estimating: McCaslin Associates
Specs: IntroSpec
General Contractor: Speed Fab-Crete

Good Fulton & Farrell
Dallas, TX

This first Equinox Club location in Dallas transformed an automobile dealership into a showcase for a fitness and health facility. The existing buildings were divided into two basic blocks. The first block, now sheathed in a black composite panel skin, houses the reception area, yoga room, spa, and sublease retail spaces. The second block, featuring white translucent panels on a plinth of glass and natural cedar, houses the cardio floor, pool, locker rooms, and two levels of structured parking. The blocks are linked by a two-and-a-half story atrium, with suspended freeform, colored plexi panels, one of several significant art installations by local Dallas artists. The 45,000-square-foot club interior combines modern European tiles and veneers with the contrasting simplicity of exposed structure ceilings. The environment reflects the lifestyle of the upscale, urban clientele which Equinox attracts. There are now two Equinox facilities in Dallas, in North Dallas and Park Cities.

Client: Eclipse Development
Project Team: Jeffrey L. Good, AIA; Liz Johnson; and J. Scott Slagle
Design Consultant: Studio Arthur Casas
Civil Engineer: Dunaway and Associates
Landscape Architect: SMR Landscape Architects Inc.
Structural Engineer: Hunt & Joiner
MEP Engineer: Jordan & Skala Engineers Inc.
General Contractor: Hill &Wilkinson General Contractors

Dallas, TX

The Diabetes Health and Wellness Institute at Juanita J. Craft Recreation Center is the result of collaboration between the City of Dallas Park and Recreation Department and the Baylor Healthcare Southern Sector Healthcare Initiative. It represents a first-of-its kind facility designed to treat and prevent diabetes holistically, incorporating diagnosis, treatment, education, and physical activity. The existing 21,000-square-foot building was completely transformed from the interior. The project includes a new two-story entry, lobby and main corridor, as well as a 4,500-square-foot administrative addition to the south end. Designed for seamless interaction, the wellness facilities and recreation center now coexist and support each other, maintaining and expanding the existing facility’s role and value within the surrounding community.

Client: City of Dallas
Project Team: Phil Callison, AIA; Courtney Johnston; and Tori Wickard
Civil and Structural Engineer: RL Goodson
MEP Engineer: Meinhardt
Landscape Architecture: Newman Jackson Bieberstein
Signage: Babendure Design Group
Owner’s Rep: CBRE
Construction Manager: Medco
General Contractor: Core Construction

Rochester, MCN

This wellness center, on Mayo Clinic’s Rochester campus, is a three-story, 110,000-square-foot facility that serves clinic employees. The center provides expansive space for aerobic conditioning, strength training, swimming and aquatic therapy, and programs in nutrition, weight management, and stress reduction. Educational spaces include classrooms, a library, resource areas, and a demonstration kitchen. The facility also houses research areas, including physical assessment spaces, labs, and exam rooms where researchers capture and analyze data related to the effectiveness of fitness programs. Features include space for yoga and massage therapy, special workout rooms for women and beginners, a running track, lap and therapy pools, and a large room for spinning (stationary bike) courses with a projection screen for virtual rides.

Client: Mayo Clinic
Architect of Record: BWBR Architects
Programming/Planning Architect: Dewberry
Civil Engineer: McGhie & Betts Inc.
Structural Engineer: MBJ Consulting Engineers
MEP Engineer: LKPB Engineers
Landscape Architecture: Damon Farber & Associates


Jacksonville, FL

The LEED Gold Student Wellness Center at the University of North Florida, was funded entirely by student fees. The 76,500-square-foot facility provides a new home for the Recreation, Health Promotions, and Physical Education Departments, as well as providing student recreation facilities. Program elements are simply zoned with administration, academics, group studios, and locker facilities on the first floor. The second floor primarily consists of exercise options, with some small administration and support areas. A running track is on the third floor. The building received certification.

Client: University of North Florida
Architect of Record: Borrelli + Partners
Associate Architect: Dewberry
Civil Engineer: Bowen Civil Engineering Inc.
Structural Engineering: Bliss & Nyitray Inc.
MEP Engineering: TLC Engineering for Architecture Inc.
Landscape Architect: Steven Davis, ASLA