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In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, it makes sense that many building owners and facility managers have been focusing on enhancing health and wellness at their institutional and commercial properties.
While the crisis has abated, providing an environment where tenants, employees and visitors can safely gather with minimal risk of viral transmission — and elevate multiple aspects of their health and wellness — continues to be top of mind for commercial real estate stakeholders looking to attract tenants, customers, visitors, and employees.
Nevertheless, some have neglected to consider one building aspect that is critical to these goals: amenities.
As a design/build company that specializes in water features, rockwork, and themed environments for commercial properties of all types, OTL has extensive expertise in delivering amenities that promote the wellbeing of everyone on site. Here are a few of the ways we have seen these amenities contribute to overall health and wellness while adding beauty and experiential value to their environment.
It is certainly no secret that being around water has a powerful, relaxing impact on human beings. Whether we call it the “blue mind effect” or the biological result of soothing neurochemicals flooding the brain, there is no denying the connection between looking at water and feeling calmer, more centered, and balanced.
Fountains enable people to experience this relaxing phenomenon through the sounds, sights, and sensations of moving water. For example, our firm recently worked as part of a design team to complete a series of tranquil streams, numerous ponds, and rockwork for Hillside Memorial Park’s Garden of Solomon, Phase II, in Los Angeles. The project provides a peaceful backdrop for visitors to reflect on deceased loved ones amid the beauty of the park’s green haven. By incorporating fountains into commercial properties and public gathering spaces, stakeholders are providing access to this relaxation, which holds enormous benefits for anyone visiting the property.
Adding water features to a site also integrates biophilic design into the built environment, a concept that involves bringing elements of the outdoors inside a space. Studio Design Group Architects Inc. in San Luis Obispo, California notes that biophilic design can meaningfully reduce stress in individuals, lowering blood pressure and boosting their emotional and mental health.
The movement toward healthier buildings began several years before the pandemic, which only accelerated this trend. At that time, architects and designers were focused on using materials that didn’t produce off-gassing and leveraging daylighting to expose people to energizing and healthful doses of natural sunlight. Today, smart buildings have progressed to include features such as HVAC systems with advanced filtration that minimize the transmission of viral particles for better physical health.
Water features can contribute to this end as they have been shown to improve the air quality inside of buildings. When fountain water evaporates, negative ions are released into the air, cleansing it, reducing air pollution, and helping to prevent viral spread.
Also, the potentially negative health impacts of splashing water in fountains installed at medical facilities can be eliminated with proper water feature construction. Our team assisted to build water features for a wellness garden at Cedars-Sinai hospital in Los Angeles, California. Small bubbler nozzles were introduced into the round basins to create a gentle rippling effect devoid of water spray, reducing the risk of dispersing virus-related droplets and spreading illness to patients, staff, and visitors.
Advancements in water feature design and technology are constantly in progress to help elevate the health-improving qualities of fountains and make them an increasingly beneficial option for property owners and managers.
Getting together with friends, family and co-workers is one of the things people missed most during the pandemic. While virtual meet-ups soared in popularity at this time, research shows that face-to-face interactions lead to stronger interpersonal connections and are essential to our overall health. This is one of the reasons why brick-and-mortar retail is experiencing a resurgence despite the growth of online shopping, and the need to connect in person may be playing a role in the rise of office occupancy.
Outdoor water features can help to facilitate those interactions by providing a safe and aesthetically appealing space for people to gather and socialize in commercial spaces. Viruses are least likely to be transmitted outdoors, and being outside with others buoys our sense of wellbeing while energizing and enhancing our experience.
Because they are beautiful and pleasurable to be near, water features can serve as ideal public gathering places, settings for impromptu get-togethers as well as planned occasions such as weddings and business events. Spectacular show fountains such as the water feature we recently designed and constructed at EpicCentral, a 172-acre park site in Grand Prairie, Texas, deliver the ideal backdrop for all sorts of gatherings and provide opportunities for groups of people to enjoy dazzling displays of light, movement, and music in a safe environment with those who mean the most to them.
As health and wellness at their properties remain top of mind for owners and facility managers everywhere, the right amenities can help them achieve this goal. Incorporating these amenities into their assets is an essential element to providing the healthiest environment for tenants, employees, and visitors at these properties. By calming the nervous system and relieving stress, improving physical health, and encouraging social gatherings, water features can elevate the health and wellness factor at virtually any commercial property across the country.
Barry Caylor is the Vice President of Business Development for Outside the Lines, Inc., a design-build themed construction company that specializes in creating one-of-a-kind rockwork, water features and themed environments for retail entertainment, hospitality, gaming, and golf properties around the globe. More information is available at www.otl-inc.com.