Building health and wellness

A woman strikes a yoga pose alone in a city square with tall buildings around.We need healthy architecture – that is, architecture that supports human health and wellness. Louis Rice claims that human illness is related to the design of the built environment. Key issues are discussed in a book chapter that covers social, mental and physical health and “restorative” design. He proposes a “healthy architecture map” based on materials, environments, agency and behaviours. The title of the chapter is A health map for architecture: The determinants of health and wellbeing in buildings. Abstract is below.

There is more useful information and research in the book including a chapter from Matthew Hutchinson, The Australian dream or a roof over my head. An ecological view of housing for an ageing Australian population.  

The World Health Organization also links health and the built environment in the WHO Housing and Health Guidelines. It includes a chapter on accessible housing.

Abstract: The health crisis facing society, whereby most humans suffer illness, is related to the design of the built environment. The chapter identifies key issues for built environment design professionals to improve the health of architectural environments. The chapter reviews existing medical and public health research to establish evidence-based interrelationships between health and architecture and to define ‘healthy architecture’. ‘Healthy architecture’ goes beyond the relatively narrow focus of physical health, safety regulations or environmental health legislation of much contemporary architectural research. The proposed conceptualisation of ‘healthy architecture’ requires consideration of social, mental and physical health, particularly wellbeing and restorative design. A conceptual framework is generated as a ‘healthy architecture map’ by considering the four principal domains of architectural design related health and wellbeing: materials, environments, agency and behaviours. The ‘healthy architecture map’ can be used by built environment experts, architects, planners, engineers, clients, user groups, public health professionals to inform and improve the design of the built environments to promote and facilitate health and wellbeing.

Healthy Placemaking: Practitioner perspectives

Why do built environment practitioners create places that contribute to preventable disease and early death, despite evidence on healthy placemaking? That was the question the Design Council wanted to answer. And you could ask the same thing about access and inclusion. According to their survey of over 600 practitioners, many said they often have to convince clients and other professionals to invest in healthy placemaking. They also found that more emphasis was given to outdoor places than indoor places. Physical activity was given priority over buildings that could support job creation and boost employment rates. Homes were given the lowest priority. Not using available information to inform designs was a major concern. The 10 key insights capture the overall picture that emerges from the report.

There is much to take in with this report as it covers systemic issues, and competing priorities and individual attitudes. There is a web page with the introduction where you can download the report document in PDF.

There’s a related post on this topic: Healthy view of placemaking.

Editor’s note: The same issues are found within the industry in terms of access and inclusion. Many issues are systemic and that means individuals who support healthy inclusive environments cannot make a significant difference if the rest of the system does not support the ideas. And evidence is not the game-changer.


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