What is Healthy Building?

1. Overview of the Topic – Summary:

From Wikipedia: Healthy Building can be seen as the next generation of Green building that not only includes environmentally responsible and resource-efficient building concepts, but also integrates “health, wellness, and human experience in buildings.”

Healthy building encompasses a wide range of concepts and applications that promote human health which include but are not limited to: site selection and construction, occupant engagement, personal control, indoor environmental quality, daylighting, biophilic design, access to potable water, healthy dining options, exercise in the workplace, and smoking restrictions.

One of the leaders in the US focused on Healthy Building is the Healthy Building Network(HBN), which defines their work as such:

“HBN has defined the leading edge of Healthy Building practices that increase transparency in the building products industry, reduce human exposures to hazardous chemicals, and create market incentives for healthier innovations in manufacturing.” https://healthybuilding.net/about

2. What is the focus of this Topic?:

While the concept of Healthy Building or Healthier Buildings have been around for many decades now, these developments have often been focused on physical health. This was often a focus based on the materials and physical issues of a building impacting health, such as lead paint, asbestos and indoor air quality issues. This includes particulates and VOC’s, such as the statement listed above by the HBN.

Over the past few decades, the increase of emotional well-being in the built environment has also become more popular, while also striving to find solutions based on physical ailments created from built environment issues such Sick Building Syndrome.

According to Dr. David Bellinger, a professor of neurology at Harvard Medical School, “Children are being exposed to unrecognized toxic chemicals that are silently eroding intelligence, disrupting behaviors, truncating future achievements, and damaging societies.” [1]

3. Why it’s listed here – What is the relevance to Architectural Medicine?

With a focus on physical health, and topics including the potential physical contaminants in the built environment, the topics of Healthy Building are critical to include in the goals of Architectural Medicine. The impact that materials and methods in the built environment have on physical health are essential topics to evaluate for good health and well-being.

As mentioned in an article on this website, the reason why Architectural Medicine is not using this as its title (see the article Why not call it Healthy Building), is that historically the term Healthy Building has been focused mainly on physical health. And while many of the top groups in this field are still focused on this important topic of physical health, the big picture of Architectural Medicine also includes mental and emotional well-being as well.

However, as can be seen in the quote in the above paragraph by Dr. David Bellinger, these physical impacts from building materials and components also have a mental and emotional impact on health, and so there is an important overlap between these topics that requires a cohesive viewpoint for best solutions. And it is this cohesive solution process that Architectural Medicine strives to achieve and integrate into whole systems approaches for good Health – physically, mentally and emotionally.

4. Common groups and individuals involved with this topic:

The origins of “Healthy Building” can go back as far as Hippocrates… “Asclepius and Hippocrates focused medical practice on the natural approach and treatment of diseases, highlighting the importance of understanding the patient’s health, independence of mind, and the need for harmony between the individual, social and natural environment, as reflected in the Hippocratic Oath.”[2]

These ideas about spaces and places impacting health have continued on to the modern era by those such as Florence Nightingale who said, “The connection between the health and the dwellings of the population is one of the most important that exists.”

In the past fifty years, there have been many people and groups who have supported and worked towards creating Healthier Buildings. In the US the Healthy Building Network (HBN) founded by Bill Walsh, has worked to inform and educate the building professionals on the issues of toxic building materials, and providing healthier indoor environments.

The book “Prescriptions for a Healthy House” by Paula Baker-Laporte, Erica Elliott, and John Banta have provided many building professionals with valuable details to achieve healthier built environments. And the book “Making Healthy Places” by Andrew L Dannenberg, Howard Frumkin, and Richard J Jackson has also provided a great overview with many resources for healthier building.

5. Resources: