WLLW Residential Framework

The WLLW Healthy Homes framework has been developed to support clients in designing and developing residences with a measurable focus on health, wellbeing and sustainability. It is a tool designed to create direct outcomes for internal stakeholders and end users.

In the modern home, it's surprising how many toxins can exist, brought in from outdoors or swirling in the ether from household activities, furnishings and appliances, or condensation and mold, with nowhere to go but to build-up and pollute the air you breathe. As such, ensuring that a house has a healthy airflow and is as toxin-free as possible is paramount. Proper ventilation is key, with a mix of mechanical ventilation systems with high quality particle filters and natural ventilation both playing important roles dependent on the environmental factors inside and outside the home. Air purifiers, air cleaners and certain plants can also help.

Vital to life, humans wouldn’t be here without it. When it comes to water in our homes, it is not only about having high-quality water to consume and for daily use, but also about being wise in how we treat the resource. Water quality testing is important and we advocate for the installation of home systems that purify and filter water to remove contaminants, while ensuring disinfectant levels are sufficient to control microbes. Smart systems can control usage and reduce your bills, whereas careful planning in the construction process can minimize water footprints. Considerations also involve monitoring and mitigating excess moisture from entering the home, avoiding mold and dampness, as well as preventing stagnation in pipes.

Architectural considerations around the use of space such as internal layout, room layout, circulation design as well as the ‘feeling of home’ provide some of the most vital elements in creating healthy, liveable environments. Our homes should be flexible and adaptable, providing sufficient room to meet our daily needs, while minimizing stressors via thoughtful design solutions. The way we move around our homes can have a huge impact on our interactions and experiences of using them. All residences, no matter their size, are made up of travel routes and destinations. Understanding the difference is key to planning circulation flows that avoid irritation or disruption. The feeling of home is that wonderful je ne sais quoi that comes with finding balance in a living space over which you have full agency, and which reflects your tastes and ways of living. It is often found in design that embraces simplicity and authenticity, timelessness and elegance in natural materials. Crucially, it is about having intention for our spaces and the items in our homes.

Our mammalian brains are intricately in tune with natural light rhythms, so it is little surprise that exposure to light is an essential ingredient for us to thrive. The sun has a substantial impact on our moods, productivity, stress levels, and our circadian rhythms. In the home, this can be tended to by embracing lighting environments that promote visual, mental and biological health. Intelligent lighting design, together with techniques for understanding visual balance, user needs and promoting lighting control can reduce circadian phase disruption, improve sleep quality and positively impact mood and productivity. During the daytime hours, it is good to provide as much daylight as possible, without introducing glare.

Good design can be harnessed to improve our health, happiness and overall quality of life. At WLLW, when we consider form in the context of what goes into a home, we look to furniture – both fitted and loose, as well as fixtures and equipment. Designers refer to this collectively as FF&E, and it includes all the products specified to furnish and equip a home’s interior; from sofas, tables, lighting, beds, curtains, accessories, specialist joinery or millwork, casegoods and appliances. While far reaching, this category proposes enhancements to ensure the products we specify are elegant and functional, healthy and sustainable. Made beautifully and ethically to last a very long time, they often integrate modularity or repairability, and we design with material usage in mind, looking to nature for our inspiration. Considerations of physical and psychological ergonomics also play an important part. Our objective is to ensure the contents of a home can minimize environmental impact while supporting resident wellbeing.

Personal comfort includes a range of factors, from thermal comfort and acoustics, through to privacy and our sense of control over our environment. These factors can affect how we feel within a space and can have long term health impacts. Achieving a home environment in which all the occupants are thermally comfortable can be tricky – what suits one person may not suit another. Nevertheless, steps can be taken, from ensuring a well-insulated building envelope and keeping humidity and thermal conditions at consistent optimal levels throughout the day, to the use of soft furnishings or solid drapes to reduce thermal runaway. Sound also impacts health and productivity. Creating an inviting and peaceful auditory environment in the home could involve segmenting rooms for specific acoustic needs (for instance, you might play the piano in the living room but keep the study more protected for focused work). In each of these rooms, there would be something to act as an acoustic barrier to ensure that noise overflow is controlled.

Spending time in nature has been shown unequivocally to improve our mental and emotional wellbeing. It reduces stress, improves our memories, and makes us more creative. Nature can be brought into the home in multiple ways. From incorporating plants into our internal and external areas, and providing views of green spaces, water (or at very least a tree), through to enacting a construction strategy that improves ecology and biodiversity. While investing in biomorphic architectural solutions is not an option available to everyone, green roofs and rooftop gardens are continuing to gain in popularity. Aside from their aesthetic and mental health benefits, they can improve the insulation of a building, clean the surrounding air and reduce the need for heating or cooling. Access to parks or gardens are also important, particularly in urban environments, as is the incorporation of biophilic design indoors, via loose and fitted furniture.

It should go without saying that minimizing the presence of harmful materials in your home creates a healthier environment. Despite this, many new homes across America, constructed for expediency and under tight cost controls and outdated regulation, are failing their owners and occupants. These residences are built from petrochemically-derived materials whose extraction, production and end-of-life are not only profoundly damaging to the environment, but whose consumption (or use) exposes residents to harmful chemicals that can be released into the home’s air. Interior products and furnishings are also frequently packed full of toxic chemicals that can have negative impacts on our health. At WLLW, we champion healthy, low-impact vernacular materials and demand full material transparency from the manufacturers we work with.

Homes should be sanctuaries – dwellings that protect and nourish humans. As such, it’s important that somewhere in yours, be it a kitchen, bedroom, or a reading nook, you carve out spaces where you can feel a great sense of peace and find stillness of mind. The design, layout and appearance of homes can have powerful effects on mental wellbeing and decision making. Our goal is to create homes that support resident’s psychological health. When we think about how a home’s design and operations can support one’s body and mind, we also consider factors such as ensuring suitable good quality sleep and rest, creating spaces that encourage hydration and support a healthy approach and better access to nutrient-rich food, as well as interventions to make it simpler for residents to integrate movement and exercise into their daily lives.

The pandemic kept many of us separated from our loved ones, but as social creatures, we are hard-wired to want human connection. Social connection to others is a major determinant of health outcomes and morbidity rates, with studies showing loneliness can be as harmful to us as smoking or obesity. Homes and communities can be designed to facilitate the sort of effortless social interaction we crave and combat occupant loneliness and isolation. Embrace a dining room, informal seating areas, or a fire pit with some chairs, perhaps. Socialising, it’s good for us.