Wellness Is the New Luxury, as Multimillion Dollar Condos Get Healthy

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When the WELL building standard was introduced I thought it was silly, especially when it launched with a $ 50 million penthouse offering vitamin infused showers. I wrote:

The rich are different than you and me; they can afford healthy buildings. The rest of us have to eat the CO2 and mercury produced making the electricity needed to run 10,000 square foot apartments with built-in juicing stations, 78 bottle wine coolers, giant saunas and circadian lighting systems.

Then the WELL Building Standard for commercial buildings was introduced and it actually looked quite interesting. It has become quite respectable and is administered by the Well Building Institute now, with former USGBC head Rick Fedrizzi now running it. My students at the Ryerson University School of Interior Design studied it in depth last year and concluded:

By being so holistic in its approach to the built environment, this standard goes beyond the idea of simply being environmentally sustainable. WELL standard takes into consideration the biological impacts the interior environment and buildings have on humans. The WELL standard promotes the consistent action of improving bodily health, acting almost like a health physician in the form of a building.

Since the WELL Standard is commercial, this year I actually have assigned them the task of designing a residential standard for healthy homes modelled on the Well commercial standard.

Living 2

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However it may all be moot; WELL Building Standard and Delos founder Paul Scialla is back with "Wellness Real Estate" to doing over the top expensive apartments like he started with, working with wellness guru Deepak Chopra to build what Peter Lane Taylor of Forbes calls “the first ultra-luxury residences specifically designed and built around human biological well-being and preventative health design.” They are part of the Muse Residence, a 65 storey condo under construction in Sunny Isles, north of Miami Beach.

NOTE: I have been asked to make clear that Delos and Wellness Real Estate are not related to WELL certification or the International WELL Building Institute, it is another gig for Scialla.

Chopra explains to Taylor:

“Biological living is the next revolution in real estate,” Chopra predicts to me in an exclusive interview, “This has been a long time in coming. Sleep patterns, breathing, color, light, movement, spatial flow, sound. These can all change our genome expression in the direction of health and well being. The wellness features and technologies that we are designing (into these residences) will enhance both the physical and emotional well-being of the homeowner.”

Chopra continues with a complaint about green building:

“So why do we separate the human organism from where we live? Pure air, pure water, acoustics, and Circadian lighting are the first steps. For years green building has focused on environmental impact. Not on the human biological impact. That is what we are doing here."

Taylor thinks that they are on to something huge here by going after the wealthy. “ Who doesn’t want pure air, water, light, sleep, silence, health, balance, and rejuvenation in a loud and complicated world?”

Paul Scialla is much more down to earth and “science based” in his descriptions:

“Things like natural daylight, fresh air exchange, ceiling height, and open flow design can also make our interior environments more productive, sustainable, and livable. But green building for years has been focused more on environmental impact rather than biological and human impact.”

One could ask, "How about focusing on both?"- that is what the Living Building Challenge does. And they just keep going on about the wonderful Delos Laboratories Circadian lighting, with its “advanced automated, full-spectrum indoor lighting controls with the ability to adjust light temperature, hue, direction, lumens, and wavelength to promote alignment with the body’s natural circadian rhythms, in turn helping to improve energy, productivity, mental acuity, sleep quality, and mood fluctuations throughout the day.”


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But this is why people go to Florida and have windows- for the sunlight, the natural source of our Circadian rhythms. That’s what the artificial systems are supposed to reproduce. So really, if you have floor to ceiling windows, it is probably redundant. If you have any windows it is redundant. But it is not just about lighting; according to their press release, there are also:

  • Air purification systems: advanced filtration methodologies will be used to enhances indoor air quality by removing allergens, toxins, pathogens, pollen and other pollutants from the air.
  • Water filtration systems: best-in-class water filtration technologies will be incorporated to achieve nationally-recognized water quality standards.

And don't forget the "hand-picked Chopra finishing selections including mood aligning paint colors mimicking nature." Chopra says that it is all scientifically verifiable, and not just holistic fluff. “Now we can measure everything and prove everything. This brings credibility to what you may know from experience but you couldn't prove before. Working with partners like Delos we have the data now."

In conventional Well-standard office buildings, they actually try to do just that; it is quite rigorous. But in a Well-certified office building, they check the fridge to see what people are eating, they monitor the exercise equipment, they get quite nosy. How will their data hold up when they are talking about very rich people who drive a Ferrari instead of a bike? What possible data could they have that is actually relevant to two people living in a 5,000 square foot condo?

And finally, why? Because Wellness is the new Luxury. Scialla explains:

“Every developer everywhere is looking to differentiate themselves in luxury real estate these days, especially in South Florida. What’s the next must-have luxury or amenity? Who’s the next trendiest architect or interior designer? But wellness is the ultimate luxury. Energy-efficient buildings and biologically aligned design go hand in hand. That's the ultimate expression of a holistic building. This isn’t just one project. This is a movement.”

There is the small matter that condos in the project run from $5 million to $20 million, and the Delos/ Chopra package of healthy goodies and circadian lighting costs an additional $ 500,000.

When Delos started with $15 million apartments, I complained about how much power they would need to run, how much material to build, how the words sustainable and efficient could not be applied to them. I wrote that “these apartments may be good for people (if you believe all this holistic wellness stuff) but it is at the expense of the environment.” These apartments are not in an energy efficient building, nor are they biologically aligned; they are big luxury condos with a fancy lighting system. Some holistic building. Some standard. Some movement.

muse tower

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