The Architectural Medicine System (AMS)

The Architectural Doctor and the Evaluation Process

Currently, there is very little connection between the fields of Architecture and Medicine in a direct format that is geared towards Health and Wellness.

While there have been great strides in Healthy Hospital design and development, which has been pioneered by many in the field of Evidence-Based Design, there are still gaps between the medical fields and the building fields focused on health.

This architecture includes the wide range of buildings from the big city skyscrapers of urban cities, to the suburban and rural common structures as homes and workplaces. All of these built environments have a big impact on human health, and the focus on these impacts and these influences are just now becoming topics that are truly considered and evaluated in the occupant’s health and wellness.

These gaps between these two main professions are critical connections between the Doctor and Architect, and without such connections in an integrated working approach, how can there be progress in supporting health and wellness in the built environment?

The Integration of Architecture and Medicine

The current fields of Architecture and Medicine have very few interconnections in terms of how the built environment is factored into human health. The diagram below shows a symbolic representation of how these fields are separated:

Yet if these two professional fields were to work together to determine protocols, processes, standards and a collaborative effort for patient and occupant health related to the built environment, then these two professions working together would symbolically be interconnected as in this diagram:

Architectural Medicine logo

As the diagram shows above, the intersection between Architecture and Medicine can show the interconnections between these two fields in creating the healthy built environment. This is the logo of Architectural Medicine as a representation of this integrated approach.

What Systems and Protocols can be Developed for Best Patient and Occupant Health in the Built Environment? 

There may be a question as to how this integration can be created and what this would look like. Some common questions may be:

  • What can be done to help the Doctor evaluate conditions related to health in the patient’s built environment(s)?
  • How can the issues of health in the built environment be evaluated and monitored?
  • What kinds of systems can be put into place to inspect and record these built environment issues, which can then be utilized for the Doctor’s evaluation? 
  • What issues in the built environment can be defined as topics of analysis for human health evaluation?

The Doctor cannot be expected to evaluate these issues without a support system of inspectors and building professionals, in both guidance and in collaboration.

And the Architects and building fields cannot be expected to know what is an ideal scenario for health when they are not trained specifically on human health. 

Issues related to public health, epidemiology, toxicology, and environmental psychology, to name just a few fields, would also be required to work together in this process of evaluation for whole systems solutions. Each profession would need to provide feedback that is specific for their profession while including the overall big picture. 

All of these professionals would also require a system in place to help them connect with each group, and to have a common set of guidelines and protocols in place for achieving these goals. 

Big data and the “long tail” of this Architecture and Medicine could be very valuable to monitor and examine patterns in the built environment related to human, biological, and ecological health.

Connecting the Dots in Buildings for Health and Wellness

Connecting the fields of Architecture and Medicine could provide best practices from each group for the consideration of optimal health in the built environment. Without these interconnections – and a lack of systems – it would be challenging for these groups to have any helpful integration to establish best practices.

However, with this integration, there can be both a collaboration of information as well as developments of protocols and processes in evaluating, inspecting and then providing solutions. This is called the Architectural Medicine System (AMS).

This data collection could also be connected to fields such as bioinformatics, to enable this data to be evaluated over time, allowing for health patterns to become more recognized and issues to be properly evaluated.

In order for this to manifest there would need to be actual data to be recorded in the first place as both raw data, and reports providing more detailed analysis by health professionals. The reports can be utilized for the Doctor’s analysis, yet the data can then be collected with patient information removed for anonymity and privacy protection. In this manner, the data itself could be utilized for big data evaluation.

 A Flowchart for Evaluating Health in the Built Environment

While there are many viewpoints on how to create healthier architecture, healthier cities and the healthy built environment, there are some theories that can be applied in a systems approach.

One such approach is to view the current model of how the general public, architects and doctors connect, or don’t connect, in reference to health and wellness. For instance, the diagram below shows a flow chart of the current process in evaluating a patient’s health in a typical medical process:

 

Based on this scenario and evaluation, the built environment is not a major factor or is often not even a consideration in evaluating a patient’s health issues.

What System Could be Added to the Doctor’s Evaluation Process that Considers the Built Environment?

Consider the following flow chart that adds an additional component to the evaluation process, which takes into consideration the built environment in evaluating, maintaining and supporting the patient’s health:

 

And as this is analyzed as a system, some major questions may begin to surface, such as:

  • Who can inspect these structures on health related topics and what can be done with that information if and when issues are found?
  • How can the issues related to health in the built environment be evaluated and monitored?
  • What ailments can be a “flag” for possible issues related to the built environment?
  • What systems can be in place for the Doctor to have a healthy building inspection prescribed for their patient’s home or work environment?
  • What round trip systems can be put into place for the Doctor to work with these Healthy Building Inspectors?
  • If and when issues are found, what steps would the Doctor take to then work towards solutions in their patient’s built environment?
  • How would these issues be tracked and evaluated?
  • What process would the Doctor take in working with Architects and Builders to create and fix these issues?
  • How would the Doctor know these solutions would then be properly implemented?
  • Could there be follow up Inspections to verify this data?
  • Can the doctor use these metrics in these inspections to help follow their patient’s short and long term health?
  • If this data is collected as anonymous data, can this be used for epidemiology, public health, bioinformatics and other fields using big data to recognize health issue patterns in relation to the built environment?

Overall, it can be seen in this simple questioning process that there are many connections that would be required for this system to function, with each professional working together.

The Role of the Architectural Doctor

It is in this manner that an Architectural Doctor can be best defined as one who would be a liaison to help connect these various fields, and to facilitate this process for best whole systems solutions.

While it may not be necessary that an Architectural Doctor work with the Doctor in each scenario, it would be extremely helpful to have systems in place and professionals supporting this process to help inform the Medical and Architecture professionals. This support includes new systems and processes in order to facilitate these developments.

The following is a flowchart of the Architectural Medicine System (AMS) that begins to look at this process and examines steps to take in achieving this evaluation process:

In viewing this flowchart, there can be many variables, yet to have a system in place that considers the built environment as potential factors in health can begin a more cohesive solution process.

If the above flowchart does not load properly and/or show the ability to zoom in, please click this link.

 

In Conclusion

It is obvious that this Architectural Medicine System (AMS) flowchart would require the creation of both systems and professionals, such as the Healthy Building Inspector and the Architectural Doctor, to work together in a complex support system.

The addition of a Healthy Building Inspector and Inspection would require additional professionals to provide these services, as well as the proper steps and protocols to report on such potential issues. The Architectural Doctor can certainly help in this process, yet in addition to this professional support a new system provided for all fields involved would be required as well.Architectural Medicine book published December 2020

These topics are discussed in more detail in the Architectural Medicine book, available in paperback and ebook here.

And an important piece of this puzzle includes the Architect and Building professionals to be able to provide design and building solutions that can fix issues, as well as design better building solutions in the future for prevention.
Architectural Medicine has been working on both the flowchart workflow, as well as systems to support these processes and will be providing more information about these developments over time.

In the meantime, the flowchart can hopefully provide awareness of such issues and considerations for those as Doctors, Architects, Builders, and Inspectors as to what types of connections can be created and how these fields can be working together to provide solutions.

The complexity of these processes requires different professionals to work together to provide whole systems solutions, and this gap that currently exists is one in which Architectural Medicine strives to bridge.