Our health is highly dependent on environmental factors such as access to quality water, air and sunlight. With this in mind, it is easy to see how important it is for designers to ask themselves, i.e., “How can architecture improve health?”. The built environment of a design affects our well-being and health. Not just that, but it can also have long-term connotations and implications on the standards of one’s life.
A variety of design elements, such as choosing non-toxic paints and incorporating biophilic design, can increase the well-being of those who live in a space. Many of these design elements reduce stress, germs and noise in the space and keep the occupants comfortable.
To truly enhance human well-being, building design must move beyond optimising individual parameters such as temperature and humidity to a more holistic approach tailored to human behaviour that promotes health. Based on certain knowledge and advancements that have been made in terms of how health can be affected by the architecture of a space established by scientists, there are several essential rules outline a thumb that could be followed by designers that would help users of the building or space live a healthier life.
Well-being and Design
Except for design requirements for healthy buildings, little attention has been paid to the relationship between architecture and health. Recent research has changed this, creating a more holistic perception of the role of architecture in health. The focus was on morbidity resulting from environmental features, such as overcrowding, noise, air quality and light. These effects are usually described as direct (physical and mental health effects) and indirect (such as through social mechanisms). However, rather than focusing on ill health, health definitions and research have focused on behaviours that support health—a “thriving” population. A key point of discussion here is the ability of the built environment to support such positive behaviour.
Numerous ways of tracing these have been established, but some of them could be summed up as follows:
- Active space: Physical activity is commonly associated with causing chronic disease and reducing the burden of illness, disability and premature death. Design features related to increased activity include access to physical activity facilities, convenient and close access to destinations (work, shops, schools), high housing density, land use and accessibility.
- Connectivity: The quantity and quality of social connections correlate with reported well-being and physical health. Providing local “everyday public spaces” creates opportunities for people to connect and is an important source of well-being for individuals and the wider community. This correlates with a sense of community when spaces are pedestrian rather than car-centric, as perceptions of the pedestrian environment are particularly strongly associated with opportunities for social interaction. Finally, natural, green, or landscape qualities have been widely and long associated with various health benefits. In summary, public spaces that brought people together and where support networks were formed and nurtured were key to overall well-being.
- Observing & Analysing: Paying attention to the present and paying attention to your thoughts and feelings are actions that reduce the symptoms of stress, anxiety, and depression. Awareness of design interventions in the population is an action for which there is only recent evidence. However, in randomised controlled trials, art provision, planting and landscaping, wildlife features, and seating are examples of the types of interventions that significantly increased observations in people who stopped paying attention. The same study showed that different types of open space (a combination of green and hard land) and a higher relative proportion of public to private space were also associated with reported increases in mindfulness.
- Altruism: Prosocial rather than egocentric behaviours have been shown to have a positive impact on well-being. The presence of environmental stressors reduces support behaviour, but little clear evidence is available other than the above discussion linking the physical environment to neighbourhood social capital. There is evidence that people in cities are less altruistic than those in the countryside, especially confirming the value of integrating contact with green spaces and nature.
Effects Architecture has on one’s life.
Designing for health and well-being is about creating environments that promote well-being and enrich our lives. This new way of thinking considers the relationship between the physical, psychological, social and environmental aspects of the built environment and people’s health.
- Building of more communally inherent spaces- Social aspect
- The emotional impact that design has on an individual- Psychological aspect
- Sustaining off on mother nature- Ecological aspect
Use of Natural light to brighten up
Scientists at the Lighting Research Center report that a daylight environment improves the productivity and comfort of residents. They help regulate human circadian rhythms and the production of neurotransmitters like serotonin. Serotonin, known as the happiness hormone, made us feel more energetic, happier and rested. Increase. Studies show that patients treated with sun exposure in healthcare facilities experience less pain, need fewer pain medications and heal faster, resulting in shorter hospital stays and lower overall healthcare costs.
Designing Interactive Social Spaces
A healthy community encourages safe and easy ways to socialise. Public spaces such as streets, squares, gardens and parks are widely recognised for their health benefits, including promoting physical activity, social interaction and creating a connection with nature and greenery. Restricted access to these spaces during the lockdown has hurt the mental health of particularly vulnerable people. In the building, including the patio, we have adapted the space to serve as a common area for children and adults to play and get some fresh air.
To create designs that positively link architecture and its built environment with human well-being, designers must consider specific propositions, such as the appearance of buildings and the sense of designing spaces that promote psychological and social well-being.