Creating a Better Environment
The World Health Organization defines health as “a state of complete physical, mental and social wellbeing and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity”. As such the term “health and wellbeing” can be considered to cover social, psychological and physical factors. An individual’s health and wellbeing is determined by a complex combination of genetics, lifestyle, behaviour and environmental factors, including those related to the built environment. With the average person in the developed world spending approximately 90% of their lives indoors, the conditions and facilities that buildings provide and the behaviours that they encourage are therefore a significant influence on everyone’s health and wellbeing.
Indeed there is a large body of research that convincingly demonstrates that the design, construction and operation of buildings has a substantial impact on the health and wellbeing of their occupants.
Furthermore, the evidence shows that there is a clear difference between internal environments that are simply not detrimental to health and those that positively support and enhance health and wellbeing. For workplaces, where staff related costs typically represent 90% of operating costs (energy and rental related costs typically represent 1% and 9% respectively), anything that can help to make a workforce more healthy and happy can have significant impacts on an organisation’s bottom line in terms of improving productivity, absenteeism and staff retention/attraction.
The following aspects have all been shown to impact the health and wellbeing of building occupants and are therefore important building design, construction and operational considerations:
• Indoor air quality and ventilation
• Thermal comfort, temperature and humidity
• Visual comfort, daylighting and artificial lighting
• Noise and acoustics
• Safety and security
• Interior layout, active and inclusive design, and look and feel
• Connections to nature (biophilia)