It’s a particularly niche bit of industry jargon, but one with a very important meaning, which is “the study of the totality of factors in buildings that influence our, health, wellbeing, and productivity.”
The term was coined by Joseph G. Allen at ‘The Healthy Buildings Team’ at Harvard. If you’re technically minded and want to find out more, this is his book ‘Healthy Buildings’. It’s an interesting read and gets into the technical aspects of buildings that impact on the mental and physical health of their occupants. A slight word of warning - the book is pitched at big business owners and so frames its recommendations around increased ‘worker productivity’. This feels off-key at times because of the inequality it implies ie. if you have a ‘good job’ and work for 'Big Corp' your increased productivity justifies a building that makes you healthy, if you don’t then well…
One of the impacts of the last year has been to highlight the role that our homes and neighbourhoods have on our wellbeing. Existing inequalities around housing have been amplified during this period, with consequences on the mental and physical health of London’s residents. There is one section in Healthy Buildings where the author talks about how a 2C temperature rise in office space has been shown to lead to a 2% drop in productivity. Reading this you can’t help reflecting on the impact that living in a cold, damp, overcrowded flat might have on a teenager in Year 9 trying to carry on with their school learning at the moment.
When we are talking about housing, wellbeing is not a ‘nice to have’ that improves the bottom line, but something that can fundamentally impact on people’s life chances. Kyle touched on some of these subjects in a recent article for Housing Today, about how ‘empathy’ is a key skill for designers.
It has been said that one long-term effect of the global pandemic will be to accelerate changes that were already happening in society. If that’s the case, then it’s our view that discussions around the quality of homes – in terms of the impact they have on our mental and physical wellbeing – are going to become more and more important over the coming years.
This year Archio has been asked by the London Society to curate a series of talks on the theme of ‘Changing Ways of Living’. We’re kicking off on 25th February with a panel discussion titled “Wellbeing and High Density After Covid”, which will explore:
Themes around wellbeing and whether we are about to see a major change in attitudes towards high-density living, which has been seen as the answer to London’s future growth for some time. Will the impacts of the pandemic mean a renewed focus on investment in wellbeing, or has the shine come off living in cities altogether?
We’ve got some fantastic speakers lined up with expertise in delivering high density homes and how we can design for wellbeing. Each of their names below link through to the exciting research they are all involved in, so click away!
Jacob Willson, Head of Design at Be First (Barking and Dagenham)
Félicie Krikler, Director at Assael Architecture
Natasha Reid, Founder MATTER. SPACE. SOUL
Daniel Slade, Policy and Projects Manager at TCPA