The Relationship Between Architecture And Human Well Being

by The Mind of An Architect | Aug 14, 2019 | Architecture

Italian Trulli

Italian Trulli

In a newly opened office high-rise in downtown Beijing, most occupants were reportedly feeling uncomfortable everyday. It was a tight building of which the central ventilation system provided mechanic air supply but no natural exhaust. A survey was conducted, which included a questionnaire to occupants and detection of indoor air pollutants. Results of the questionnaire indicated that 98.7 % of occupants had sick building syndrome, and that their symptoms were more severe in the afternoon than in the morning. Results of pollutant detection showed that the concentration of carbon dioxide in some rooms was as high as 700 to 1000 ppm. In most rooms, carbon dioxide and radon levels were higher in the afternoon than in the morning. This data suggests that insufficient ventilation, likely as a result of the lack of an exhaust duct system, causes accumulation of indoor pollutants that are associated with sick building syndrome. (Wang, Li &Zao 2002)

In 1946 the definition of human health was adjusted by the World Health Organization to encompass the entire spectrum of physical, mental and social well being as opposed to the conventional idea of freedom from infirmity or disease. This development led to investigations into the role of the built as well as natural environment on human health and well being. The study of human physiology is a well established field of inquiry with a large body of empirical, quantitative evidence to support many of its claims, however the analysis of relationships between physical and mental well being in the built environment now known as environmental psychology is relatively new. This area of inquiry is particularly relevant for architects and other professionals involved in the design of built forms in a rapidly urbanizing society that spends the majority of its time in indoors or in spaces created by the collaboration of architectural and urban design. Poorly designed housing, workspaces, transportation and recreational spaces can at best stagnate and remain unused or in worst case scenarios – cause chronic physical and mental health issues for its inhabitants, contribute to the spread of disease, waste resources and diminish their overall sense of well being and efficiency.

“Whether people are healthy or not, is determined by their circumstances and environment. To a large extent, factors such as where we live, the state of our environment, genetics, our income and education level, and our relationships with friends and family all have considerable impacts on health …” World Health Organization: The determinants of health

Vitruvius in his model for the elements for a well designed building designated three which were essential for this purpose:

Strength in building design is manifested as its ability to withstand the elements of weather and provide shelter for its inhabitants .The concept of functionality in design has evolved from the building simply serving its purpose of housing its inhabitants and catering to the activities conducted within it- to one of providing a stimulating, enriching and comforting experience for the same inhabitants and activities. The idea of beauty on the other hand, is a complex concept intertwined with that of functionality to create the aforementioned space, providing a positive experience for every individual inhabiting it.

Physical Well Being In The Built Environment

Italian Trulli
Most people spend the majority of their time indoors, yet we are only informed about the effects of outdoor ambient environmental conditions on our well being. Physical health and well being is typically quantified in the field of design in relation to the symptoms and causes of disease. Factors such as air quality and movement, day lighting and sanitation are generally used as indicators for the quality of a space and are also integral aspects of the design process. Sealed building envelopes, particularly those with large glass, metal or concrete facades reflect excessive amounts of solar heat due to the high thermal reflectivity of modern building materials-this in turn heats up surrounding areas and contributes to the phenomenon known as ‘Urban Heat Islands’.

The primary factors which contribute to physical well being in built spaces include: