As architects, we are all familiar with LEED, the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design’ certification program. Sustainable and environmental design has become an integral part of our daily life, not simply for the physical and mental health but social and cultural activities. For such reasons, one of our jobs as an architect is ‘to design human well-being’.
How many hours a day do we spend outdoor? For me, I walk to and from work, which takes approximately an hour per day, and that’s very little. Spending many hours indoor, the level of well-being is not only determined by air quality or amount of daylight we get, but also by circulation and layout of space we inhabit, which further emphasises the necessity of space designed for human well-being.
1) Indoor Air Quality and Ventilation
As cities grow and become more crowded, whether with people or vehicles, the quality of air we breathe in unavoidably deteriorates. Spending most of our hours in offices, classes, or TTCs for those who commute, reminds us of the human instinct and desire to stay close to the nature. A living bio-wall, as we previously discussed in Green and Grey, has become a trend that attempts to integrate natural forms and processes into buildings, circulating and improving the quality of air we breathe in.
It is very well-known that sufficient daylighting has numerous benefits: not simply with passive design and energy costs, but with emotional and mental conditions, behaviour, stress, and performance. Herman Avenue, the project that began as a maze within a house where space was divided into multiple small rooms, has suffered from the lack of sunlight and undesirable dark corners. Demolishing partition walls opened up and created one large room with not only abundant daylight filtering in, but better flexibility and adaptability of space.
3) Social and Cultural Activities
If we inevitably must spend our hours indoor, why not design the space built for activities? Designing flexible space allows multiple purposes to take place, whether for circulation or programs. The Ryerson University Student Learning Centre utilises circulation space for walking, pausing, sitting, gathering, announcement and performance, even though nothing designates or limits these activities. Being in an open space designed for everyone and different purposes allows social and cultural activities that boost well-being to take place.
When I first started learning LEED, I heard quite some people saying that LEED has become cliché, since quite some number of buildings are becoming certified and more professionals accredited. I disagree, and in fact, it statistically proves that more buildings and architects are conscious of the impacts of architecture on environment and sustainability, and reminds us of our responsibility as designers of human well-being. How do you see the future of design that reinforces human health? Share your thoughts!