Health, wellbeing and the impact of our homes: MPavilion recap

As Covid’s wake continues to stream out behind us, markers which previously defined contemporary living patterns have been thrown into stark relief with emphasis on health and wellness driving change across almost every lifestyle frontier. As we continue to settle into relative normality, the possibility to design and build homes that support their residents’ health has emerged as a major trend within the vernacular.

As part of MPavilion's MTalks series, a conversation curated by Neometro took place on 2nd March, 2023 which explored how our recent reshuffling of priorities has left people wanting more from their living environments.

In collaboration with Clinical Psychologist and CEO of Smiling Mind, Dr Addie Wootten, Lecturer, Registered Architect and Director of Norman Day + Associates Architects, Dr Kirsten Day, Neometro Director and co-Founder of Smiling Mind, James Tutton and Customer Experience and Innovation Leader Nicole Imberger, the open forum questioned the role of investors, developers and city-makers as they awaken to powerful opportunities to build homes and neighbourhoods that put residents’ wellness at the centre of conception and design.

“Our worlds were turned upside and where we were in that moment in time had such a significant and profound impact on our wellbeing,” says Addie Wootten, moderator, acknowledging that what’s in our homes, and whether or not that supports physical, mental and social wellbeing, has become a considerable focus for us all.

Central to this topic is nature and its unquestionable impact on the overarching qualities of our homes. Transcending the specifics of where we live and how we live, a connection to nature has gone from dropping further and further off our collective conscience pre-covid, to now being recognised as a primary player.

In her exploration of future scenarios and the impact of change on the human condition, Dr Kirsten Day understands the vast potential of biophilic design— the practice of connecting people to the natural world within our built environments and communities. Natural connections which can weave into every element of a home from the way they are built, what they are made from, how they are decorated and what the surrounding community looks like, emerged as a social trend.

“We began looking at what our 5kms looks like and when that connection to nature isn’t there, a lot of research has come to light to show that you don’t actually have to have the real tree. Timber and natural smells, for example, provide a similar type of sensation.”

This notion extends into so many facets of living reestablishing that bringing natural qualities into homes has become equally about coaxing the elements through a focus on air quality, light, materials, textures, motifs, outlooks and the provision of outdoor space. At the same time, a reassessment of work ethics and patterns of living has resulted from home office or hybrid arrangements, allowing people to carve out time for a walk in a nearby park or an escape from the urban environment altogether.

Wearing multiple hats in this conversation, James Tutton straddles both the development and wellness perspectives with equal credence. Through Smiling Mind, mindfulness has been cultivated with nature and connection central themes within the platform. Through Neometro, a set of pillars—air, light, comfort, connection, mind and body—has been established to address the consumer buying and decision-making process alongside a responsibility to design sustainable, efficient, and healthy buildings that consider all three aspects of health and wellbeing equally—mental, social and physical.

“There’s been such an increase around awareness in terms of social change off the back of Covid,” he acknowledged, “people became more comfortable talking about mental and physical fitness,” although the census among the entire panel is that we are still a long way from where we need to be.

“I don’t think there is a language to talk about wellness yet,” states Nicole Imberger in recognition of a subject suggested to be too often relegated to a place of affluence. Within the residential landscape, architects and property developers are beginning to design with health and wellness as a priority, yet for a vast majority of new homes being built en masse in masterplanned communities or soaring multi-residential towers, the question remains—how can every consumer be equipped with the knowledge, language and tools to question real estate at every budget to ensure homes are being built to protect and promote personal health?

“Before Covid a lot of us would talk about self care and digital health, whereas coming out of Covid two things have happened. Our faith in science and our desire to see scientific evidence has been renewed while a focus on social wellness within our homes and their immediate communities has risen to the surface.”

In an industry bent on delivering a product that reconciles consumers wants, needs and desires, the roadmap to real estate and residential development has been re-mapped with connection (to nature, to our inner selves and to each other) the north star.

The biggest takeaway from what was a deeply relevant MTalk was that Covid-19 has caused a reorganising of our individual values and this is a positive thing! We were collectively losing traction in the grapple to maintain a healthy live/work balance and remain connected socially and to nature. Yet there are many simple, actionable things that have risen to the surface of the wellness debate with a thirst for knowledge clearly present across all consumer demographics and time, space, budget and accessibility key drivers which will enable consumers to feel empowered in their views on what future homes should look and feel like beyond minimum standards and how our homes can foster a better, healthier future.

Words by Tiffany Jade. Event photography by Duncographic. Resident photography by Derek Swalwell.