25-27 September 2023
Hilton Abu Dhabi Yas Island
Wellness Design for Hospitality by OBMI
Sustainability & Wellness Design Strategies Deliver Strong Return on Investment
Wellness today is an essential lifestyle.
As architects, we have seen the impact of wellness on today’s lifestyle. It is evident by the increase in people bringing wellness practices into their homes, creating the ultimate healthy environment. This wellness focus also influences travel, and we have the data to back this up: Wellness travel is a $639 billion industry.
Each year, it grows at about twice the rate of the general tourism sector. While a spa component may bring well-being for hotel guests, defining wellness in hospitality remains a loose concept and covers any adoption of wellness, great or small, physical or experiential.
However, consumer demand is growing for a range of elements that meet moral and spiritual values which are fundamentally ingrained in the evolving meaning of wellness and human comfort. Designing to make spaces comfortable in all senses is an expertise that requires creative leadership and technical proficiency. It is crucial to have a design team that is able to introduce human comfort upon conception, rather than attempting to retrofit into an already defined hotel or resort model. Not only will this create a holistic experience for the guest but is also more cost-effective.
Human comfort is easily defined as a state of ease pertaining to one’s physical, mental and emotional health. The first step in ensuring wellness is to start providing a healthy environment that fosters human comfort. To do this, good, fresh air is essential.
“Architects design spaces to ensure optimal well-being by connecting the outdoors, increasing natural ventilation, and using a biophilic aesthetic to provide passive cooling and fresh air. This requires consideration of the local climate and design of the building envelope — to maximize high thermal performance and appropriate air circulation to maintain a level of basic human comfort,” states Senior Lead Designer Ana Ramirez, OBMI’s wellness specialist.
Building from that foundation, design can transform guest rooms, restaurants and lobbies into multisensory oases of wellness.
Welcoming portals and curving corridors create levels of intimacy in otherwise open spaces. Lighting, glazing, colors, forms and textures contribute to a sense of well-being. Soft surfaces in restaurants offer acoustics that let diners hear each other speak quietly. Elements of nature — from garden courtyards to natural stone surfaces to timber beams to water features — are all nourishing, calming and healing. Wood grains can bring the outside in while permeating a space with the subtle aroma of cedar, piñon or sandalwood — evoking a sense of place and creating strong olfactory memories.
The size of a property may determine decisions about wellness programming. Ramirez notes: “A boutique urban hotel will usually have all amenities under one roof — or on the rooftop. A larger resort can take a campus-style approach, with different pavilions, outdoor cabanas and buildings of a more intimate scale, surrounded by landscape, offering experiences specifically designed to celebrate the surroundings.”
A culture of self-care can be fostered, either throughout your destination or within designated areas. Planning allows the creation of tranquil zones where guests all share a similar mindset. Some hotels cluster wellness-oriented rooms together, often near the spa. Cutting-edge technologies such as air purifiers, aromatherapy systems, Vitamin-C-infused showerheads or circadian lighting for optimal sleep are grounded in the simplicity of biophilic architecture, nature-inspired design and outdoor experiential treatment rooms.
“Looking to the future, we expect to see bedrooms where acoustics, lighting, shading and temperature are fine-tuned to promote sleep. Adaptable guestrooms will transform daily to accommodate private fitness sessions or functional treatment therapies. Space-planning will integrate elements of nature through design solutions that are sustainable, biodynamic, and salutogenic — the source for optimal health. Hotels might embrace new approaches to regenerative wellness and detoxification, with programming to optimize human potential and take well-being to new levels,” Ramirez explains.
Promoting health is well worth the investment. People who travel with wellness in mind spend, on average, 130% more on hotel amenities.
These consumers range from millennials, who pursue wellness as part of their daily routine, to baby boomers, who aspire to retain their youthfulness.
Developers and hotel brands will optimize the healthfulness of a destination by thinking holistically during the earliest stages of the project. Such forethought also results in the best possible guest experience. When comfort is integrated into the entire concept, your destination tells a story of well-being — from the moment guests arrive to the time they reluctantly say goodbye.