Architecture to improve your health and increase your happiness

Check out this guide from the American Institute of Architects on how certain designs can improve your health. A few examples:

Serenity Now: The spaces architects create can have a soothing and calming effect that reduces stress through mitigation of excessive noise, allowing visual connections beyond the building or within it, and providing access to natural daylight. Research indicates that short-term exposure to noise may negatively affect mental  well-being; prolonged exposures may exacerbate other issues, including aggression…
Stairs Can Save Lives: Well-integrated and -designed staircases can increase physical activity and cardiovascular health. A Harvard study found that men who climbed at least 20 floors per week had a 20 percent lower risk of stroke or death from all causes. New York City’s Active Design Guidelines recommends stair-design strategies that may increase physical activity.
Toxic Gas: Off-gassing from high VOC (volatile organic compound) materials can trigger respiratory health problems such as asthma or allergies in both users of buildings and the people who build them. A child that sleeps in a bedroom with fumes from water-based paints and solvents is two to four times likely to develop allergies or asthma…
Eyes on the Street: Street-level doors and windows encourage walkability and foster a strong sense of community, which aids people’s sense of environmental safety and broader community health. In a Bronx, N.Y., neighborhood where crime is prevalent, the Betances Community Center, designed by Stephen Yablon, AIA, illuminates a central staircase and gymnasium in natural light, wrapping its ground-level façade in windows as well. These transparencies give the building a welcoming presence and offer views to a public park across the street.

A lot to have to consider when designing and constructing a building. It is interesting that a number of these suggestions cross multiple areas of need. For example, stairs are necessary for safety if elevators stop operating. Toxic gas from VOC materials is a green issue. Eyes on the street is a classic phrase from Jane Jacobs to describe the kind of vibrant street life that helps social control without the need for formal policing. But, to also pitch these as health issues is likely a nice marketing tool. Not only can architects design a well-functioning building, they can improve people’s health outcomes.

In pointing to this story, Curbed provides a quote that architects can even do more: they “are often the architects of our happiness and unhappiness as well.” What can’t architects do?

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