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<< Back to Health & Wellness, April 2014

The Healthiest Home in America

Victoria Veilleux

In Greek mythology, an oracle occupied the sacred sands of the Aegean island of Delos, where no one was allowed to die, and Apollo guaranteed residents' wellbeing. Paul Scialla, the founder of a modern-day wellness empire he calls Delos, intended the company name as a nod to health and longevity. This spring, he and his identical-twin business partner, Peter, unveil the world's first Well Certified residences, which were constructed using blueprints for optimal health.

Something of an oracle in his own right, Scialla forecasted financial trends during his 18 years on Wall Street as a partner at Goldman Sachs. “We are taking the largest asset class in the world, real estate, and infusing it with the fastest-growing and arguably most important industry in the world: health and wellness,” he says. His impetus may have been pure intellectual curiosity, but he soon realized the idea had longevity. During the renovation of his own loft in Manhattan’s Meatpacking District in 2011, Scialla developed the prototype for Delos’ first residential project, which will be located at 66 E. 11th St.

The five upscale condominiums in Greenwich Village will be the first residences in the world to meet the stringent codes of the Well Building Standard, a certification developed by Delos based on seven health categories: air, water, nourishment, light, fitness, comfort, and mental health. “It’s not simply us saying that a building is healthy; we are determining what is healthy by looking at an entire body of research [focused on] health and wellness,”says Dana Pillai, executive director for product development at Delos.

Delos spent more than four years to vet the concept, partnering with doctors from Columbia University Medical Center, Mayo Clinic, and Cleveland Clinic to determine if wellness-centric real estate would prove viable. The team collectively spent 75,000 hours reviewing evidence-based medical research. Delos then consulted architects and engineers to infuse the living spaces with therapies to address a variety of health factors, an effort that yielded more than 50 preventive well-being accoutrements for each 66 E. 11th St. unit. The innovative residences list between $14.5 and $50 million.

Deepak Chopra, who is one of the first buyers to attach his name to the address, not only purchased a unit but also serves on the Delos advisory board. “Our environments are an extension of our bodies, and a holistic approach to both environmental and biological sustainability is the next frontier in how homes will be built,” says Chopra.

The five full-floor loft condominiums are a neighborhood anomaly, providing residents with spaces 42 feet wide. The largest residence, the Mansion, occupies three floors and one subterranean room of the eight-story building, has a private elevator, and is accessible through the lobby or the unit’s personal single-car garage. The 10,000-square-foot, five-bedroom home also includes a screening room, a wine cellar, a gym with a massage area and steam room, and a private courtyard. The building’s other gem, the two-story penthouse, delights with views and the sheer size of its 2,200-square-foot outdoor living space.

Enlightened design

The intelligent placement of light is one important aspect of health-oriented design. Bluer, brighter light frequencies, equated with the rising and midday sun, trigger the release of the energizing hormone cortisol and inhibit the sleep hormone melatonin. “A fair amount of the population has seasonal affective disorder,” says Michael Roizen, MD, chief wellness officer at the Cleveland Clinic. “Without adequate bright light, they become depressed.” So Delos added blue light to the steam showers and alongside bathroom mirrors to help rouse residents in the morning.

Programmable via smart-home technology, patented circadian lighting fixtures emit different wavelengths of light at strategic times to stimulate retinal ganglion cells. These cells signal the body’s master clock, known as the suprachiasmatic nucleus, which helps to govern such biochemical processes metabolism, sleep, and moods. Yet the absence of light proves to be just as integral to overall health, and each unit features programmable blackout shades. At night, low-intensity red light illuminates hallways and bathrooms, because the brain is less likely to register it as awakening light, says Keith Roach, MD, associate professor of clinical medicine at Weill Cornell Medical College and advising medical practitioner for Delos.

The 66 E. 11th St. interiors also foster quality sleep with soundproof sheetrock, double-glazed windows, and sound-dampening floors. Even the grass planted in the windowsills is of the highest grade for decibel reduction. “Noise affects perceived stress level, which has several effects on the body,” explains Dr. Roizen. “It decreases production of telomerase [an enzyme that adds length to DNA strands, keeping your body youthful], and turns on the genes associated with inflammatory reactions.”

Air supply

One cannot live healthfully without clean air, and Delos takes a five-element approach to maintaining air quality. “There is good data that links air-quality levels to the development of disease,” says Dr. Roach. “Delos’ plan is to actively monitor air quality in the building as a step toward reducing that risk.” In addition to sediment and carbon filtration to remove pollen, toxins, and pathogens, ultraviolet light within air ducts sterilizes 99.9 percent of the air before it enters the residence.

The building’s water supply undergoes a similar process, including ultraviolet purification, particulate filtration, and reverse osmosis. The advanced system bifurcates water by pH, delivering more acidic water to areas of the home for cleansing purposes and directing alkaline-rich water to fixtures used for drinking to aid absorption of minerals, such as calcium and magnesium.

New amenities

Sub-Zero wine refrigerators, six-burner gourmet stoves, and radiant-heat tiles are nothing new in the upmarket condominium business. Here, posture-supportive flooring made of rift-cut Siberian oak, soft cork subfloor, and antibacterial underlay; a Miele steam oven; and built-in juicers also facilitate the creation of healthy, home-cooked meals. Designed to buyers’ specifications, each unit’s features are meant to encourage nutritional wellness. “With this approach to real estate, residents are nudged toward health just by the building being what it is,” says Dr. Roizen.

To help health-conscious owners fully utilize the home’s features and enjoy their associated benefits, an in-home wellness application can be run on a tablet or smartphone to guide users through the process of adjusting settings. Residents also have access to wellness concierge services, which assist with everything from finding top acupuncturists to landing a coveted space in a popular Spinning class, ordering fresh vegetables from the farmers’ market, or maintaining the windowsill herbarium. An alliance with Cleveland Clinic’s online Go! Healthy programs—Go! Foods, Go! to Sleep, and Stress Free Now—delivers therapeutic regimens in the form of daily tips, suggested activities, monitoring, and email recommendations from medical experts.

The first residential building is only the initial step for Delos. It has patented a dozen products included in the 66 E. 11th St. units, ranging from circadian lighting to WELLShield antimicrobial coatings. Some are available for purchase directly through Delos, helping to make any home a Parthenon of preventive health. delosliving.com

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