Wellness Wednesday: Healthy Architecture

Have you you ever noticed that you just feel good in some homes ? This might be because of the people who live there, or because of some happy memories. Or it could be the architecture ! It has been definitively shown that architecture influences our health and our sense of well being. In this post we will be examining what science and architecture say about healthy living space. 

Vitruvius, a famed architect and engineer of the Roman Empire, note that three elements were required for a well designed building: health, comfort and delight.

Cleary these requirements go beyond household air and water quality, lighting, waste management, and nontoxic materials. They go beyond shelter, privacy and safety as well. 

The AIA or American Institute of Architects has utilized a set of design principles to inform architecture not only for homes, but for schools and hospitals as well. They are as follows: 

  • Safety
  • Social Connectedness 
  • Environmental Quality
  • Sensory Environments
  • Physical Activity
  • Access to Natural Systems. 

This means that besides being safe, homes need to provide a space for people to comfortably gather. They need to be designed in such a way as to foster good air and water quality in the home. They need to provide pleasant sensory experiences of sound, sight, smell and touch. They need to foster the ability to be active. Finally they need to include or be able to interface with nature. 

According to Robert Ivy, CEO of AIA, these criteria for health fostering architecture can go even further. He highlights the following design principles: 

  • Biophilia
  • Educational design strategies 
  • Light as therapy

Biophilia refers to our innate love of nature. It even alludes to the fact that exposure to the natural world has measurable effects on well being. This can mean we keep indoor plants. It could also mean we keep a small garden outside the kitchen door. Educational design, means that our physical spaces ideally foster learning. This may mean something as simple as including space for an aquarium,. Or, it may mean including bookshelves, a tool shop, or a lego table in a child’s room. Light as therapy is a proven factor. Daylight fosters recovery in the hospital and good emotions at home. Daylight is ideally part of every room in a building. 

Designing for wellness is important whether you rent, own or are building your home. Small but well informed changes in your living space can have significant effects on wellness. 

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