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

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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

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

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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!

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Regeneration 2017 Ed3 … Students, Tutors and Organisers …