by Alex Lopatynsky

I remember when I was a little kid my mother would make me a peanut butter and jelly sandwich on her homemade whole wheat bread for lunch. These were the years when kids would typically have a lunch of Wonder Bread, fluff and peanut butter with a Twinkie on the side as a snack. Here I was, coming to school with very dense, homemade, whole wheat bread, with jelly oozing through and an apple as a snack. I was the “weird” kid and I felt strange every time I would walk into school with my homemade sandwiches. All I wanted was to blend in with a fluffernutter sandwich on Wonder Bread that you could press into a ball if you wanted to.

Sounds natural right? Fast-forward 30 years, and I'm repeating history for my children. I bake my own whole wheat bread and I make sure that my kids are eating well-balanced, healthy nutritious foods, just like my mother did for me. Active, healthy lifestyles are a natural occurrence for my family. The Health and Wellness movement that we are experiencing in America today is something that my mother instinctively knew and encouraged. As a nation, we are slowly becoming aware of the effects of our unhealthy diets and inactive lifestyles.

In recent decades our lives have become less active and more stressed. We eat more processed food and we spend more and more time indoors. In fact, people are spending more than 90% of their time indoors, so the built environment has a profound impact on our health, happiness, productivity and well-being.

A few key members of the JCJ Architecture team, myself included, were recently privileged to participate and earn provisional accreditation through the International WELL Building Institute®, making our firm one of the first in the nation to have trained WELL Accredited Professionals on staff. I see this standard not just as an outgrowth of the sustainability movement, but as the next logical step toward a holistic approach to design – one that takes into account both the health of the environment and the health of its people. This approach ultimately adds value for our clients and creates an enhanced, beneficial experience for the patrons of their buildings.

I am very passionate about this movement and excited to have partnered with Delos Living LLC who founded The WELL Building Standard, to educate industry stakeholders about well-environments with the ultimate goal of creating spaces that contribute to human health, performance and well-being by marrying the best innovations in technology, health, science, design and enterprise.

The concept that we can help people change their behaviors by simple design changes is thrilling to me. Imagine creating a stair that one wants to walk up not just use in an emergency. Suppose your employer provides the office with a vending machine that only distributes healthy snacks and drinks to encourage better food choices. The Delos Living Stay Well program brings innovative design features to hotel rooms and meeting spaces as well. Imagine meetings that increase productivity, mental acuity and alertness, even if you are indoors all day. Envision a hotel room where you can feel refreshed in the morning because you used the right type of lighting to manage your circadian rhythm. All of these subtle design elements and operational modifications start to change people’s behaviors. I look forward to the day where we are all just clamoring to eat a peanut butter and jelly sandwich on homemade whole wheat bread with an apple on the side.