NEB’s Christian Vasquez says the health and wellness conversation will begin to shift

If you look ahead to 2027, you’ll see that there are a lot of sectors that are really booming, and which will likely continue booming well into the next decade. In the next 10 years, the ministry of education said that 150 more schools will be needed. And then you have the healthcare sector growing and advancements being made in transportation, like the flying drone taxis and the Hyperloop. These will definitely change the environment of architecture and construction, and they’re all connected to the future of Dubai.

Right now, health is the most important growing sector in the world and we are expecting it to be the next trillion-dollar industry. Green building standards have made significant strides towards the building industry and environment over the last decade, but strategies that focus solely on the health and wellness of building occupants have played a relatively small role.

I first heard about WELL at an AIA Middle East Annual Conference in Egypt, and it was an eye opener. Imagine this: we spend 90% of our time indoors, and we don’t realise that every room we occupy affects our health. People now demand transparency from the buildings that they spend a majority of their time in, so we are expecting health and wellness to have a greater influence on design and construction in the next couple of years. The time has come to elevate human health and comfort to the forefront of building practices and reinvent buildings that are not only better for the planet, but also for the people.

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In Southeast Asia, China and the Philippines, they’re much more concerned with WELL than they are with LEED, as most of the green building standards are already adopted in the local building codes. In Dubai, there’s only one WELL-certified office that I know of. Although after this office came out, I’ve had two more clients enquire about it, so there’s an awareness going on.

It’s all part of the health and wellness conversation, which is changing and focusing on the human experience in addition to the environmental impact a building can have. And it’s the job of architects, interior designers and even developers to explain the importance of these decisions to the owner, client or public. That’s the mandate of our profession – its trickle-down education.

The good thing about Dubai is that we have a ruler who believes in this. If the head of state didn’t believe in climate change, sustainability and the wellness of his people, then we wouldn’t have a foundation to build on.

This piece was written by Christian Vasquez, architect and business development executive at NEB, as part of Middle East Architect’s ‘Dubai: The Next Decade’ series. Firas Hnoosh from Perkins+Will  and Joe Tabet from JT+Partners have also contributed pieces. 

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