Wellness Within Your Walls: A Deeper Dive

A few weeks ago, one of our design directors, Teresa Karpala, attended the Wellness Within Your Walls (WWYW) training. We talked to her afterwards and got the dish which was shared here.

After hearing about Teresa’s enlightening and empowering experience, we wanted to know more about the WWYW program. And what better way to learn more than by going straight to the source? So, to that end, we reached out to Jillian Pritchard Cooke, the creator and mastermind behind WWYW. Jillian was incredibly generous with her time; we learned a great deal about Jillian, her career, what led her to creating WWYW, and how she envisions the future of home building. To follow is just a brief synopsis of our chat.

Wellness Pioneer, Jillian Pritchard Cooke Interview

LD & Co: Thanks again for taking the time to sit down with us Jillian. We know you are incredibly busy, so let’s just jump right in. Can you share with us what the impetus was for Wellness Within Your Walls? The WWYW origin story if you will.

JPC: Sure, it has been 14 years now. I was really at the height of my career when everything changed for me. I was part of the team working on creating the first LEED-for-home house in Atlanta, GA. The work was very high profile, as it was the house of Rutherford and Laura Seydel (Laura is Ted Turner’s daughter).

Creating this Eco Manor, as it had been dubbed, was quite ambitious. Our goal was to create a residential home that would be environmentally and sustainably designed from the inside out. While an incredibly exciting time for me personally and professionally, it was also a major turning point in my life; amid everything, I was diagnosed with a rare tissue cancer. My doctors attributed it to environmental causes rather than genetic. As an interior designer I had unwittingly put myself in harm’s way on a regular basis: working in homes for hours on end where toxins were at a high level.

I battled cancer – undergoing both radiation and chemotherapy – and won. However, while my body had healed, my psyche had changed entirely. I knew I couldn’t go back to the way things were. I felt compelled to be a force for change and help rid the building industry of the omnipresent toxins.

LD & Co: Did you set out to create a comprehensive 10-step approach to wellness? Or was it something that grew and expanded organically? (No pun intended.)

JPC: Ha, yes it really was something that just evolved over time. Initially I was very much focused on indoor air quality. It was one-step approach to achieving a healthy indoor living environment. I wrote a curriculum for a class to share with the design community specifically; I wanted to share what I learned with my peers. However, what was initially created as a local, one-time thing has expanded substantially. It is now NAHB, ASID, and IIDA accredited, CEU credit approved, and taught year round throughout the globe.

LD & Co: It is so inspiring that you were able to translate your tragedy into such good for so many. There has been a great deal written detailing the program, which I will not have you repeat, (note for the readers, please visit Jillian’s website where it explains the program specifics in great detail.), however, I’d love for you to give us a high-level overview of the program’s modules.

The 10-Step Healthy Living System™

JPC: Absolutely. As I mentioned earlier, what started off as a way to improve indoor air quality has developed into a comprehensive, holistic, approach to wellness in the building industry. Our goal is for WWYW to bridge the building industry with the design and home furnishing community and ultimately the consumer. And it is the 10-step Healthy Living System™ that builds that bridge. The steps include:

  • Clean air
  • Clean water
  • Natural light
  • Chemical control
  • Physical wellness
  • Spiritual wellness
  • Mental wellness
  • Conscious consumption
  • Food science
  • Behavioral strategies

[Editor’s note: we talked a great deal about each of these steps. Jillian provided anecdotes, data, and more information about how to achieve each. She detailed how each step can and should be implemented and how it helps the consumer as well as the manufacturers and builders. This article on her website is a fantastic resource and summarizes a lot of what she shared.]

LD &Co. You have accomplished so much with this program; you have truly revolutionized the industry. What would you say you are most proud of?

JPC: That’s a great question. I would say I am most proud that we took our time, we were thorough, harnessed an army of experts and consultants to deliver to the market place a quality solution. I can’t take full credit as it was definitely a team effort – an amazing team at that – who helped make it all happen. I am proud that this was started as a way to help people and that’s exactly what it’s doing.

Additionally, I am proud that we were able to work closely with NAHB’s National Green Building Standard (NGBS) as we enjoy working with builders that are certifying to the NGBS. It is a natural fit with WWYW. The combination of the two certifications result in the healthiest homes available in the market. WWYW helps define how both NGBS and WWYW meet the Healthy Living System™ in the inspector builder check list.

LD & Co: If you could, would you have done anything differently?

JPC: Not really. Does that mean I think it all unfolded flawlessly and we had perfect execution from day one? No, I’m not saying that. However, I do think because we took our time and were very thorough in our research it has been a relatively smooth evolution.

What’s Next?

LD & Co: Speaking of evolving, what’s next for WWYW?

JPC: A lot.

Now that we have completed 8 Case Study Homes and WWYW has engaged in 14 pilot homes nationally, we are ready to work with production builders. We now know how to scale the program to benefit all home building including multifamily and government housing.

Another area of concentration for us going forward is the affordable housing market. This area has always been important to us and was ignited when we attended a HUD sponsored Healthy Home Conference in 2014 with Steve Moore of BSB Design and Don Dabbert of Dabbert Custom Homes Fargo, ND (both early adopters of WWYW). When starting out, we were able to penetrate the private sector quite easily. About four years ago we were able to participate in the planning of a public, private partnership that served the transient, workforce, and affordable market. We learned a lot and we are now putting even more focus on that segment of the market.

And finally, when our 14-home pilot program is complete we can launch Version 1 of the program where it will be available to the masses. The workbook, entitled “The Inspector Reference Guide” which we are currently working on should be available by the end of 2020. And of course, we are always working on expanding the program’s exposure to more builders, architects, designers, manufacturers, and the consumer.

[Editor’s note: For more information about WWYW Pilot Home program please go here.]

LD & Co: It really is so exciting all that you’ve accomplished and what’s still to come! Are there any parting words you would like to share?

JPC: Adopt the healthy living system to your own life and everyday practices!

LD & Co: Perfectly stated. Thanks again for your time and all the amazing work you’re doing to help us all live healthier.

Learn More

For more on Jillian and the Wellness Within Your Walls program, please visit her website today.