in add toDesign Matters – Water

As a WELL AP Certified designer, I am focused on wellbeing in design.  In commercial projects WELL “aims to increase the rate of adequate hydration in building users, reduce health risks due to contaminated water and excessive moisture within buildings and provide adequate sanitation through better infrastructure design and operations coupled with awareness and maintenance of water quality.”

Here are 5 ways I use the WELL water concept in my residential designs:

 1. Gutters: If you have to have them – make them a feature of the design.

‘To gutter or not to gutter, that is the question.’ In residential design, water can be detrimental if it adds moisture to the basement –opening up a can of very expensive worms if mildew and mold are present. Both can have a detrimental effect on your health.  Since the job of the gutter is to move the water from the roof away from the house, this seems like an easy decision (especially if you have an existing musty basement). However, get ready to maintain them! Gutters that are not cleared of leaves and debris can lead to moisture issues in other areas like the trim, soffit and roof when the water doesn’t have a place to go.  Have you ever looked up at your gutter and realized small trees are growing in them – yeah, that can be a problem!  When I needed a new roof, I was thrilled to get rid of the small forest growing along the edge of my house – and to remove my gutters.

As an architect, I would much prefer to provide a water management plan that includes both, proper waterproofing of the foundation walls and perimeter draining as needed. I mostly opt for large overhangs to move the drip edge away from the house in rather than gutters.  Providing a landscaped zone of gravel at the drip line minimizes the splash-back and provides a neatly defined perimeter. But, when a gutter is a necessity, I use it as a design feature. In this example the lead coated copper gutter has a custom shape that reinforces the more modern look we were going for – and the color blends in with the cedar shingles.

2. Use Rain Barrels to water your yard sustainably: (good for the environment and good for your yard)

If you need a gutter you need to move the rain water somewhere, why not take advantage and harvest all of that free water in a rain barrel. Combining water management and water conservation is a double whammy and the water you harvest can be used later in your landscaping.

The direct impact on your wellbeing may come in the form of the comfort of knowing that you’re reducing your impact on your community by minimizing water usage or in knowing your aren’t lighting your money on fire to  maintain that nice lawn by paying for something that falls from the sky.  Using rain barrels that are fed by gutters not only helps minimize the impact of water in your basement, but when used with thoughtful drought resistant plantings, it’s a win-win!  Rain barrels are sometimes available with town services.

Here in on the South Shore of Boston, the North/South River Watershed Authority has a great program – and lots of tips about water, lawns and how to be a good steward of the earth.  If you don’t have a program near you or would like a more stylized rain barrel, here are a selection of rain barrels to purchase:

Gardner’s Supply Company 65 Gal  

Algreen Products Athena Rain Barrel with Rain Barrel Spigot, 50 Gallon,

3. Calming your mood with water view and sound:

If you are lucky enough to live near the ocean, a pond or river, you may be experiencing a calming effect from this visual connection. In not, hang images of water in the form of large photos or artwork in prominent areas of your home.  “The benefits of ‘blue space’ – the sea and coastline, but also rivers, lakes, canals, waterfalls, even fountains – are less well publicized, yet the science has been consistent for at least a decade: being by water is good for body and mind.”[i]  Your brain sees the “blue space”  and gets the same benefit. 

Sound can be the connection too. “Even a fountain may do. A 2010 study found that images of built environments containing water were generally rated just as positively as those of only green space; researchers suggested that the associated soundscape and the quality of light on water might be enough to have a restorative effect.”   You can set your iphone to the “white-noise” feature and hear ocean waves. Or use a sound machine – or cover both the visual and audio with a in home water fountain. 

This is a fun indoor fountain: Alpine Corporation 40″ Tall Indoor/Outdoor Infinity Calming Floor Fountain,

4. Filtering for the best drinking water: 

Hydration is key to your body and brain health. Filtering and reverse osmosis systems can be added to your plumbing system if you aren’t certain that your town water is free from toxins.  Whole house filters can give your fixtures longevity and reduce staining by removing hard-water minerals. Second best is a combination of a shower filter and under-sink filter. I use the Aquasana Water Filter system in my shower. 


5. Keeping Clean for health:

Having beautiful, easily-used fixtures in the bathroom and kitchen can help keep you stay healthy by encouraging proper hygiene. Increasingly popular, the European bidet is finding its way into American homes. We have a favorite – and the name is probably why, the Touchy can be added to your existing toilet.

Touchy Bidet

It is easy to see how the WELL Certification uses WATER as one of the key concepts. When considering beauty, healthy habits and restorative effects of water while also contributing to the greater good through rain-water management, it is clear that in design, water matters.

To read about design features for wellbeing click here for more.

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