It would seem that green spaces are only part of the story when it comes to urban design and health. Beautiful buildings also rate highly according to a study in the UK. However, beautiful landscapes need to be enjoyed by the whole population. But we still have architects thinking of children, disability inclusion, and ageing as a ‘tacked on’ afterthought or special add-on feature. Architecture and health go together.
Obvious ramps and rails detract from the look of the building for everyone. People who need them don’t like the look either. Beauty is lost when a place excludes and is inaccessible.
The Sourceable article by Steve Hansenexplains how beautiful architecture positively affects health. Based on research findings, green space did not always gain top spot with residents in urban areas. Being green does not necessarily make it “scenic”. The research involved participants viewing photographs of open space and buildings and rating them as scenic or un-scenic. The conclusion is that “scenic-ness” is more important to health than just being green.
Architecture built to heal
Hospitals and and health facilities are supposed to make us well, but are they designed with healing in mind? Michael Murphy’s TED talk critiques the design of spaces for healing. He asks, “if hospitals are making people sicker, where are the architects and designers to help us build and design hospitals that allow us to heal?” Michael’s talk begins with how his father’s illness caused him to study architecture.
Watch the 15 minute video in the link below. A transcript is also available:
There are five key areas for healthy housing and accessibility is one of them.The WHO guidelines on housing and health and accessibility takes into consideration ageing populations and people with functional impairments. It recommends an “adequate proportion of housing stock should be accessible.
In the remarks section it argues that living in an accessible home improves both independence and health outcomes. Although the guidelines argue for a proportion of housing stock it has put the issue on the agenda. It shows it is as important as all other factors. However, the notion of proportion can lead some agencies to think that means specialised and segregated housing. It is worth noting that the lead author of this section is an Australian, Professor Peter Phibbs.
The other key areas are crowding, indoor cold, indoor heat, and home safety. For more detail there is an additional document showing method and results of the systematic review that underpinned this section of the Guidelines – Web Annex F. and includes interventions such as home modifications and assistive technology.
The Healthy Home
Joining the dots between all aspects of physical and social sustainability is important for a healthy life and a healthy planet. Central to this is the design of our homes. The Healthy Housing Design Guide from New Zealand says they need to be durable, efficient in size and cost, and friendly to the occupants and the environment.
The three bar menu icon on the landing page of this online resource takes you to the content of the Guide. Universal Design leads in the table of contents. This is pleasing as most other guides leave it to a last thought at the end. The design detail features wheelchair users for circulation spaces, which, of course are good for everyone. Among the interesting images is a lower storage draw doubling as a step for child to reach the kitchen bench. The case studies focus on energy efficiency and sustainability.
This is a comprehensive document starting with universal design, site and location, through to air quality and acoustics and ending with certifications. The Guide characterises a healthy home by the acronym HEROES:
Healthy: Promoting optimal health and wellbeing through its design, resilience, and efficiency.
Efficient: Size and space, affordable and energy positive for the life of the building.
Resilient: Resilient enough to withstand earthquakes and climatic conditions. Durable to stand the test of time.
On purpose: Designed specifically with Heroes in mind and fit for purpose.
Environmental: Socially, economically, and environmentally sustainable to build and run. Considerate of Climate Change.
Sustainable: Meeting our own needs without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.
The style of the website is pleasing but the landing pagegives little idea to navigation. It says “Welcome” and then asks visitors to stay super involved. There is a bar with an arrow to go to the Foreword. The navigation is via the three bar menu icon at the top left of the page.
The video from the launch of the guide takes you through the content. Universal Design gets a mention at the 25 minute mark. It is introduced by Henry McTavish.
Compressed urban footprints might be related to higher rates of depression. Drawing a long bow here? Maybe not. In, Mind over matter: The restorative impact of perceived open space, the authors argue that the loss of natural open space could be having a detrimental affect on mental health: “By 2050 three out of four people will live in urban environments.This premium on open space will reduce vital access to the healing effects of undisturbed nature”. The article by David Navarrete and Bill Witherspoon discusses some of the neuroscience about enclosed spaces, lack of natural light and other factors and how they relate to our perceptions of the world around us. There are references for further reading at the end of the article. The article was posted on the Conscious Cities website.