What hurts, what helps, what heals: the Built Environment and mental health.

With respect to  Mental Health Awareness Week,  Erin Newton’s excellent article in UD/MH (Urban Design / Mental Health) caught my attention. Erin notes that the built environment can create and maintain risk factors for mental illness by stripping away protective factors for good mental health, for example through:

Reducing access to nature
Reducing opportunities for physical activity
Overloading the senses
Eroding privacy and quiet time
Interrupting sleep
Reducing safety (from crime to traffic to way finding)
Separating people from their social networks

buildings
The Built Environment can strip away protective factors for good mental health

As noted in my last blog post, this can lead to an increased state of distress, a solastalgia and yearning for natural environments we recall from the past, further impacting on mental health.

Yet, with  with biophilic design and salutogenic approaches, by focusing on what improves mental health, rather than only just reducing the negative impacts, Erin suggests that as built environment professionals designers, contractors and facilities managers we need to be knowledgeable about what hurts, what helps, what heals and to;

Recognise environment affects the mind, the body and perception.
Boost cognitive health by creating visually and aesthetically pleasing buildings & cities.
Advocate for buildings, spaces, cities and communities that have plenty of fresh air, good light and green spaces, while reducing noise and visual pollution through good design.
Create buildings and places for refuge, escape and outlet.
Design places that facilitate people talking to each other in positive, natural social interactions.
Improve mental health by creating safe, walkable communities.

And mental health issues are not only limited to building design and buildings in use, but also the construction process. . I am reminded of Anne Parkers astute contribution to FutuREstorative where she comments ‘I see your wonderful Sustainable buildings shining bright, then I look at your Project Managers and project team and I see the light not so bright and dimming’

Erin Newton is a UD/MH Fellow and part of NK Architects Healthcare Group in Morristown, New Jersey, USA

FutuREstorative is available in hard copy and electronic format from RIBA Bookshops

Advertisements

They Paved Paradise: (How) Can Buildings Heal? … Regeneration Edition3

IMG_4265

The third edition of the Regeneration Design Competition concluded with its conference in the wonderful setting of the Riva Del Garda Museum.

“The biggest barrier to sustainable and living building is ourselves” Amanda Sturgeon 

Following presentations from the three Regeneration Teams, attendees from across the EU heard talks from Amanda Sturgeon (CEO International Living Futures Institute) Emanuelle Naboni (KADH, Copenhagen) Emmanuel Pauwels (Green Living, Spain) and myself.

It was a real delight to work with the three teams over the course of the design competition, sharing sustainability and experience of the Living Building Challenge. Congratulations to all the teams, and to the Yellow (Coltsfoot) Team for their winning presentation.

Based on the passion and integrity of the Regeneration students, the future of restorative design, construction and operation of buildings to the Living Building Challenge standard is in very good hands indeed.

‘They Paved Paradise: (How) Can Buildings Heal?’

My Riva Del Garda presentation introduced a number of themes, sharing insights from FutuREstorative and current research work on biophilia in relation to birth centers.

taking carbon out

Carbon reduction and its impact on health is now recognised as a major health imperative, and with the built environment responsible for 40% of carbon emissions measures to address zero carbon buildings and construction must be on all sustainability agendas

A green Built Environment supports the Sustainable Development Goals. The SDG’s are emerging as the vision for Built Environment sustainability, addressing the positive impact the sector can have, replacing the ‘doing nothing today’ Brundtland definition that hasn’t moved the sustainability needle fast enough.

solastalgia

Solastalgia – With the reduction of nature, access to nature, reduction of natural light within buildings and absence of dark skies we are starting to feel distress and nostalgic for the ‘natural’ environment we recall from our youth, or the innate relationship with nature that is part of our human psyche:

Biophilia, the secret sauce for sustainability

The rise of interest in biophilia and connectivity with nature is encouraging. Biophilia can offer so much more than just better healthier places to work and live. It is the secret sauce for sustainable behaviour, improving the way we respect and look after our environment, our buildings and our planet.

And a big thanks and congratulations to the students, teams, fellow tutors, organisers and trade presenters for a wonderfully inspiring Regeneration!

18157100_10211699811278360_7955463820218056924_n
Regeneration 2017 Ed3 … Students, Tutors and Organisers …

Healthy Buildings and Wellness: 12 Insights

Alison Nicholls, Associate Director, Constructing Excellence, put together the following, excellent summary of the recent Heathy Buildings and Wellness event held on the 31st January 2017.  The event was hosted Aecom at their Aldgate Tower offices, designed to meet the very latest standards in healthy buildings and wellness.

The business case behind healthy buildings and investing in standards such as WELL, BREEAM and the Living Building Challenge, as well as the demand for healthy buildings and the practicalities of delivery in both new and existing buildings and future implications for regulations and law were explored.

Here are the top things learnt during the workshop:

  1. Changing buildings is a great opportunity to instigate healthy changes
    Dave Cheshire from Aecom looked at how making making healthier choices easier for employees could help make them healthier, more productive and more resilient to stressful life and work events. Aecom are implementing solutions to encourage people to live well, both for their own staff and on client projects.
  2. Take the investment conversations up a level
    Dave’s top tip for making the business case was to take the conversation up a tier to those who have a more holistic view of the business investments. Engaging the Human Resources department at can help justify expenditure that might add cost to the capital budget but will save significant amounts over the long term occupation of the building.
  3. Circadian rhythms – mimicking nature
    As part of the British Antarctic Survey project Aecom looked at how intelligent lighting solutions could mimic natural daylight patterns in order to trigger the hormones that set our natural body clock. This is particularly important in a building where it’s pretty dark for six months of the year, however this learning can equally be applied to night workers or office buildings where natural light doesn’t penetrate deep into the building floor plates.
  4. People don’t always understand the risks
    Isabella Myers gave a public health perspective on the link between buildings and health and wellbeing. She flagged up the risks of delivering interventions when occupants were often resistant to changes and not necessarily convinced of the risks to their health from problems such as leaky boilers and fuel combustion. This can come in many forms including deaths from carbon monoxide and neuropsychiatric symptoms from long term exposure to toxins.
  5. Our strategies to save carbon may have made it worse
    Isabella reminded us that some of the strategies that have been employed to save energy and carbon dioxide have led to more airtight homes and buildings have caused the build-up of toxins that can impact people’s health.
  6. Healthy Buildings attract premium tenants
    Anita Mitchell Head of Sustainability for Lendlease Europe spoke about increasing market demand for healthy buildings. On a recent project in Sydney major clients in the financial services and blue-chip companies were demanding high levels of WELL Buildings Standard. Eventually this could lead to devaluing property that does not support health and wellbeing.
  7. Speculative developments can still be healthy
    The strategy to deliver WELL-Ready core and shell schemes enables tenants to implement their own health and wellbeing strategies in order to meet the WELL Building Standard.
  8. Health & Wellbeing cuts across the political divide
    Health and wellbeing impacts on social and economic sustainability, therefore both sides of the political divide can support the agenda, on the one hand it benefits society and on the other it delivers bottom-line economic benefits.
  9. Don’t forget the construction process
    Martin Brown from Fairsnape reminded us that whilst the end product needs to support wellbeing there is a requirement not to forget how the built environment is constructed, the toxicity of materials used and the people who build them. While we have made huge progress in terms of onsite health and safety, the industry has one of the highest mental health and suicide rates after agriculture.
  10. Biomimicry
    There is a lot we can learn from nature and how it functions in order to reproduce natural patterns and deliver healthier and better performing buildings. For example the Living Building Challenge certified Bullitt Centre in Seattle mimics the effect of a tree canopy to limit exposure to overheating and solar glare.
  11. Data can help
    By mapping physical data sets from BIM with biological datasets from the health sector and fitness trackers etc. a really rich picture of how buildings and the built environment are impacting on people’s health and wellbeing is emerging, and providing data for health improvement. There are lots of ways in which existing buildings can be improved to increase the health and wellbeing of the occupants. BRE is carrying out a research project on a real life Biophilic office refurbishment assessing the health and wellbeing of occupants before and after various interventions.
  12. WELL & BREEAM setting the standard
    BREEAM and WELL have been working together to establish common factors and areas of mutual recognition for elements of their respective standards. Chris Ward provided an overview of progress including an initial mapping exercise that has been published in a technical guidance document.This will lead to further collaborative work to ensure that health and wellbeing are an even more integral part of the BREEAM standard going forward.

The group will meet again in April to look at how innovative, healthy and sustainable materials are being specified and how that process can be improved to ensure that clients and specifiers increase their understanding and demand innovative products and materials.

The original constructing excellence post and presentations can be viewed here 

Related:

FutuREstorative – Working Towards a New Sustainability

WELL & BREEAM announce alignment for credits: more good or less bad?

Mindfulness, Biophilia and Salutogenesis: a powerful triptych for improving construction health and happiness

 

Mindfulness, Biophilia and Salutogenesis: a powerful triptych for improving construction health and happiness

pexels-photo-94616Increasingly health is becoming a key aspect and driver for building design and maintenance. (See Next Wave of Design: Wellness-minded Spaces)

OF note, are seeing a BREEAM alignment with WELL, but as pointed out in FutuREstorative, and by others, this approach needs to equally apply to the construction process, to project working environments, including project office accommodation.

Mindfulness, Biophilia and Salutogenesis can provide a powerful triptych of approaches for construction health and happiness. But what are they, and how can they improve construction?

Mindfulness

The state of being present in the moment. Mindfulness can help in reducing stress and mind-wandering in addition to enhancing the sense of wellbeing and fulfilment from life and work. Mindfulness is growing in use within other sectors to address amongst other things wellbeing, productivity and safety.

(In collaboration with Anne Parker, we can provide tailored Mindfulness for Construction awareness and training sessions)

Biophilia

Our innate relationship with nature. Research is proving that connection or exposure to nature or natural patterns has a huge influence on our state of mind, our wellbeing, cognitive skills and our recovery times from illness. We should for example, be applying the 14 Patterns of Biophilic Design to construction workplaces as part of a healthy construction agenda

Salutogenesis

FutuREstorative introduces the concept of salutogenesis to the built environment. A medical concept that encourages focus on factors that improve & support health and then keeping people healthy, rather than the focus of just reducing the impact on health. Translated to the built environment this can mean focusing on design issues in buildings and workplaces where people go home healthier, feeling better and happier than when they arrived. As an example, the growing recognition that light (daylight and circadian light) can be a medicine, having positive, even healing benefits. Adopting a salutogenetic mindset to the construction process can also encourage us to consider and focus on potential health benefits of working in construction.

salutogenesis-slide

22 Must Read Sustainability Books

FR_Visuals_FINALOne of my aims in writing FutuREstorative was to explore and encourage new thinking for sustainability in the built environment. In turn, inspiration for the book has, in part, come from a number of classic writers and books over the last half century or so, woven into FutuREstorative and into built environment sustainability potentials.

In addition to these books being powerful in shaping my thinking towards sustainability, they  often articulate alignment between nature, the outdoors, wildness and business sustainability.

The Bibliography in FutuREstorative gives a complete listing, but below are a sample 21 of the best, all worthy of making a great sustainable reading or gifts to inspire, as indeed would FutuREstorative!.  (Note the wonderful Icelandic tradition of giving books on Christmas Eve, simply as an additional gift to inspire)

Image 8.1a Book Shelf

Let my People go Surfing – Chouinard, Y.
Three books in one here, a biography, a mountain & surf adventure and a business sustainability philosophy. This is a must read for reluctant business CSR people.

Sand County Almanac – Leopold, A.
Recognised as the godfather of ecology, Sand County is the classic land ecology book. Classic quotes form Sand County include Thinking like a mountain and We reached the old wolf in time to watch a fierce green fire dying in her eyes. I realized then, and have known ever since, that there was something new to me in those eyes – something known only to her and to the mountain.

Silent Spring – Carson, R.
First published in three serializsed excerpts in the New Yorker in June of 1962,this is the book that in many ways triggered the 1960s environmental protest movement. Still as valid today as we deal with persistent chemicals within the built environment materials

Cradle to Cradle – Remaking the Way We Make Things – Braggart, M. and W. McDonough Groundbreaking for the circular economy thinking, challenging the way we make and dispose of things.

Ecology of Commerce – Hawken, P
An important text that aligned ecology and environmental concerns with mainstream business. “if you look at the science about what is happening on earth and aren’t pessimistic, you don’t understand data. But if you meet the people who are working to restore this earth and the lives of the poor and you aren’t optimistic, you haven’t got a pulse.”

Biophilia – Wilson, E.O
Part autobiographical and personal, Wilson’s introduction to the love and relationship with nature, that introduced us to the concept of biophilia. “Nature holds the key to our aesthetic, intellectual, cognitive and even wellbeing. …”

Transition Handbook – Hopkins, R.
The original handbook for the now-global Transition movement, addressing actions required in transitioning to a post peak-oil economy. “… by unleashing collective genius of those around us to creatively and proactively design our energy descent, we can build ways of living that are more connected, more enriching and that recognize the biological limits of our planet.”

Wildwood – A Journey through Trees – Deakin, R.
Living with trees, an autobiography from one of the UK’s foremost environmentalist writers. “To enter a wood is to pass into a different world in which we ourselves are transformed

Revolutionary Engineering – Miller, M.
How the international engineering firm Intergral approach restorative sustainability. Included are case studies from their Living Building Challenge projects. Intégral: Revolutionary Engineering is for trailblazers who care about advancing the building and construction industry toward greater occupant health and happiness, and stronger resilience and regenerative systems.

Design with Climate: BioClimatic Architecture 2015 update – Olgyay, V.
Reprint of a classic 1960s text that inspired and promoted architectural design based on biology and climate. I was not fully aware of this important work until researching for a commissioned review

Biomimicry in Architecture, 2nd Edition – Palwyn, M.,
Insights into the amazing world and future potentials of biomimicry within the built environment

Feral – Rewilding the Land, the Sea and Human Life. Monbiot, G.
Inspiration for restorative and regenerative environmentalism and conservatism through  Monbiot’s experience and passion on rewilding themes.

Tools for Grass Roots Activists. Gallagher, N. and L. Myers, P Brilliant collection of essays and tools from over two decades of the Patagonia invite-only Tools Conferences

Walden – Thoreau, H.D.
Recognised by many as being the classic work on environmental and conservation thinking. “We need the tonic of wildness…At the same time that we are earnest to explore and learn all things, we require that all things be mysterious and unexplorable, that land and sea be indefinitely wild, unsurveyed and unfathomed by us because unfathomable. We can never have enough of nature.”

Last Child in the Woods: Saving our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder – Louv, R. 
Why we need biophilia in our and in our children’s everyday lives. “We have such a brief opportunity to pass on to our children our love for this Earth, and to tell our stories”

Confessions of a Radical Industrialist: How My Company and I Transformed Our Purpose, Sparked Innovation, and Grew Profits – By Respecting the Earth – Anderson, R.C. and R. White,
The guide that shaped and continues to inspire the values and ethos of Interface Inc. to take nothing from the earth that can’t be replaced by the earth

Landmarks – Macfarlane, R.
Why language and words are important to understanding our relationship with nature and landscapes. Certain books, like certain landscapes, stay with us even when we left them, changing not just our weathers but our climates.”

This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate – Klein, N.
How capitalism and our economic structures are at the root cause of climate change.“So we are left with a stark choice: allow climate disruption to change everything about our world, or change pretty much everything about our economy to avoid that fate. But we need to be very clear: because of our decades of collective denial, no gradual, incremental options are now available to us.”

Responsible Business – Chouinard, Y. and V. Stanley
Background to the responsible business values and approaches at Patagonia. “At Patagonia, making a profit is not the goal because the Zen master would say profits happen ‘when you do everything else right.’”

Reinventing Fire – Lovins, A.
A route to a non fossil fuel future in four industries that includes the built environment. Reinventing Fire will require tapping, in particular, the two biggest motherlodes of energy, efficiency and the Sun.

Eden – Smit, T.
Background to the development and principles of the Eden Project in Cornwall, UK. “…. construction is a culture that depends on warfare and fault finding that is not compatible with collaborative partnerships …”

&

FutuREstorative: Working Towards a New Sustainability Brown, M.
Focuses on the emergence of a net positive and restorative sustainability, as a more rounded social, wellness, health and healthy buildings debate “We can and must reignite sustainability, set the sustainability soul on fire, make sustainability fun and exciting, and inspire a new generation – not only for a vision of sustainability that is regenerative but a vision that also acknowledges the damage of the past and makes amends, healing the future

 FutuREstorative : is available via RIBA Bookshops and other online book services!

WELL & BREEAM announce alignment for credits: more good or less bad?

UPDATE 01 Feb 2017

Credit Crosswalks: BRE and IWBI have released guidance to streamline joint certification of BREEAM and WELL

….

As mentioned and illustrated in FutuREstorative, we will see an alignment in building sustainability and performance standards over coming months and years. In the US we have seen an alignment between LEED and the Living Building Challenge on materials (Red List) and recently on energy and water.

On Monday 28th  Nov, we saw an announcement from The International WELL Building Institute and BRE for an agreement to pursue alignment between WELL and BREEAM will making it easier for projects pursuing both standards.

In practice this will mean documentation submitted for certain credits will be recognised by both WELL and BREEAM, saving project teams time and cost.

This will be a very interesting journey and further recognises the importance of health within building design, construction and use. WELL, like the Living Building Challenge is an excellent, robust but tough standard and one that cannot be attained without a different mind-set approach to buildings.

Key to that mindset is recognition of the impact of materials on health on construction workers and building users. An alignment or agreement between BREEAM and the LBC’s Red List would make great sense here.

It will be interesting to see how the differing philosophies between WELL (do more good) and BREEAM (do less bad) work together. Hopefully this further opens the door to a salutogenic approach to design – not just reducing ill-health but using buildings to improve health, for example, using light as medicine, as explored in FutuREstorative

salutogenesis-slide
Health – the next performance gap.

I will also be watching with interest if this agreement extends to the construction process, (ie. the BREEAM MAN credits) to improve the wellness and health of those involved in and affected by construction works. This is a health and wellness area that BREEAM, LEED, WELL and the Living Building Challenge do not readily address. Yet for those whose career is spent on construction sites, it is a key health and sustainability area, and one that benefits from biophilic design considerations, for example greenery in accommodation and living walls as project hoardings.

living-walls-construction-hoarding

Cities setting biophilic commitments.

Pittsburgh has become the latest city to be inducted into the Biophilic City network, setting ambitions and commitments to eliminate the use of all pesticides, fungicides and herbicides, to increase the city’s tree canopy from 42 percent to 60 percent by 2030, to pursue  the daylighting of streams in stormwater management efforts and to develop more greenways.

pexels-photo-94616-1

To qualify as a Biophilic City, cities work within a number of guidelines and monitoring indicators:

Guidelines:

  • Biophilic cities are cities of abundant nature in close proximity to large numbers of urbanites; biophilic cities are biodiverse cities, that value, protect and actively restore this biodiversity; biophilic cities are green and growing cities, organic and natureful;
  • In biophilic cities, residents feel a deep affinity with the unique flora, fauna and fungi found there, and with the climate, topography, and other special qualities of place and environment that serve to define the urban home; in biophilic cities citizens can easily recognise common species of trees, flowers, insects and birds (and in turn care deeply about them);
  • Biophilic cities are cities that provide abundant opportunities to be outside and to enjoy nature through strolling, hiking, bicycling, exploring; biophilic cities nudge us to spend more time amongst the trees, birds and sunlight.
  • Biophilic cities are rich multi-sensory environments, where the sounds of nature (and other sensory experiences) are appreciated as much as the visual or ocular experience; biophilic cities celebrate natural forms, shapes, and materials;
  • Biophilic cities place importance on education about nature and biodiversity, and on providing many and varied opportunities to learn about and directly experience nature; in biophilic cities there are many opportunities to join with others in learning about, enjoying, deeply connecting with, and helping to steward nature, whether though a nature club, organised hikes, camping in city parks, or volunteering for nature restoration projects;
  • Biophilic cities invest in the social and physical infrastructure that helps to bring urbanites to closer connection and understanding of nature, whether through natural history museums, wildlife centres, school-based nature initiatives, or parks and recreation programs and projects, among many others;
  • Biophilic cities are globally responsible cities that recognise the importance of actions to limit the impact of resource use on nature and biodiversity beyond their urban borders; biophilic cities take steps to actively support the conservation of global nature.

Indicators

  • Natural Conditions (eg % of forest or tree canopy cover, % working/living within 300m of green space, area of green roofs, living walls)
  • Biophilic Engagement ( eg daily visits to green spaces, flora and fauna eco-literacy, outdoor activity membership)
  • Biophilic Institutions, planning and governance, (eg city budget allocated to nature conservation, restoration education)
  • Human Health and Wellbeing (% spending 30 mins + in urban nature, in outdoor activities, equitable and just access to nature)

Other aspects of a biophilic city include bird friendly, water friendly (blue urbanism) and dark sky preservation.

Other Biophilic Cities include Wellington, NZ; Birmingham, UK; Victoria Gasteiz ; Spain; Portland, USA and Singapore.

The Biophilic City website has a wealth of information, stories and resources.