There was a lot of talk some years ago about “sick building syndrome”. But now architects and designers are moving forward through the International WELL Building Institute (IWBI).
It launched a movement to address issues regarding health and well-being within the built environment (issues which are somewhat overlooked by existing standards). From this the WELL Building Standard™ was established, with the aim to provide architects and designers with guidelines on how to make a real and measurable difference to how we function within our urban spaces. And even if your project doesn’t aim for certification the WELL standard offers an inspirational model when considering a human centred design approach.
The concept is known as biophilic design, and there’s a recognised accreditation (https://www.wellcertified.com) which I’m working towards.
Biophilia at its most basic is the love of life or living systems. It’s our inherent human connection to the natural world. In an urban world of technology and industrial architecture, this fundamental connection can sometimes feel all but lost. Biophilic design is an extension of biophilia. It incorporates natural materials, natural light, vegetation, views out and other experiences of the natural world into the built environment.
It’s all about sustainability, the fundamental values behind biophilic design being the emotional connection that people and places have with nature.
And it’s good to see that developers are increasingly engaging with architects on these principles when formulating a brief. By consciously including nature in interior or architectural design, we are unconsciously reconnecting; bringing the great outdoors in to our constructed world.
Seven concepts must be considered and fulfilled in the scope of a design: air, water, nourishment, light, fitness, comfort, and mind. Why does this matter? Why do we need “positive spaces”?
Designing with people in mind is a growing topic that can no longer be overlooked; the Human Spaces Report found that a third of global respondents stated office design affects their decision of where to work.
With over half the world’s population now living in cities, chronic illnesses are becoming increasingly prevalent. Globally, research shows, 76% of employees report a struggle with wellbeing, and work-related stress costs the US approximately €255 billion and Europe €550 billion annually. These issues indicate a clear need for healthier spaces.
Better indoor air quality can lead to an 8-11% improvement in productivity. Better nutrition leads to a 27% reduction in depression, a 13% reduction in stress, and overall better mental health. Being closer to windows makes us more productive, especially if there is a view onto nature. And adding plants into the workplace significantly reduces stress, health concerns, and sickness absence. When you think about it, it all makes sense.