architecture

Wellness as a component of a new architectural certification

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What if architecture could be thought and designed to foster and promote mental and physical well-being within living and working spaces? An innovative approach that could well lead to new architectural thinking. From Plato's ideas on universal beauty and geometric proportion to feng shui and the architecture of ancient cultures, a new building certification is about to conquer the world. With a few principles of philosophy as its guideline: safety, reduction of tension, motivation for action and fulfilment of the being.
 
Dince 2006, "therapeutic architecture" has been at the heart of the architectural practice's research. by Emmanuel Negroni for dependent populations such as Autists, Alzheimer's, Handicapped, 4th age, ... The architect explains that "Sensory stimulation has long been seen as a means of improving the health of people with mental disabilities and as a means of communication to reach them. They have been used to improve profound impairments: the senses, which are the human ability to perceive the various impressions that the external environment causes in people. »
But the multitude of demands of community life also places multiple tensions on each of us. So why not incorporate standards for living and working in buildings that target well-being?  
 
This is the idea that Delos and the Mayo Clinic had in 2015 when they created a laboratory that will serve their common goal: to refine research on shapes, volumes, objects, colours, surfaces and ecological, thermal and sound conditions to stimulate health and well-being in interior spaces. (1). This laboratory named Well Living LabTM (or the wellness laboratory) is located in the center of the American city of Rochester, Minnesota. 
 

An indoor space that measures the impact of the built environment on human health

Through its publication on thePhDTalentthe architect Maria A. El Helou (2) claims that architecture improves well-being and reduces the effects of certain diseases. His field of research covers neuro-architecture, therapy through architecture and urban development based on the psychological state of the community.
The WELL Building Standard® building certification - created by the Mayo Clinic and New York-based design and technology firm Delos - is the first globally recognized certification for buildings with standards that target wellness. Their wellness laboratory " Well Living Lab TM ", allows them to record and measure, on a permanent basis, the effects of architectural elements on the productivity and well-being of people, evolving within the studied space. How is this done?
 
Thanks to a biometric bracelet worn by participants, components such as light, temperature or humidity are tested according to two variables: the number of heartbeats and the electrical conductance of the skin. Because humans spend 90% of their time in indoor spaces (3)The objective is to use the numerical results to optimise the quality of built spaces and improve personal potential such as quality of sleep, work performance or increased productivity.
With results that are already relevant, Delos and the Mayo Clinic hope to influence the architecture of tomorrow, so that health and well-being are at the heart of the new spaces designed, especially in developed or developing metropolises and urban agglomerations.
 
"Membership is global. 370 projects are registered in the certification process in 28 countries. In France, there are 26 projects in the process of WELL certification in March 2017 - such as SANOFI Carteret and the pre-certified Tour DUO - making France the 4th country in the world in terms of the number of projects in the process of certification. "says Maria A. El Helou.
 
Sceneo building in Bezons (95) - France
 
The first building to be certified in the hexagon is theSceneo" building located in Bezons (95), whose certificate was issued in March 2017, proposes, among other things, measures for indoor air and water quality.
 
CBRE Madrid offices, the first space in Continental Europe to be WELL® - Gold Level certified - New and existing interior fittings
 

A 700m² laboratory dedicated to the study of architecture on human health

In 2015, the Delos companies and the Mayo Clinic are cooperating to create a laboratory that will serve their purpose, located in the center of the American city of Rochester, Minnesota. It is divided between living and working offices on a surface area of 700 m². This interior space is removable, allowing the reactions of the participants living permanently in these different living and office spaces to be examined. In addition, it is equipped with light, temperature, humidity and air pressure sensors.
In order to test the effects of these different living environments, participants are equipped with a biometric bracelet that measures the stress level. The two main variables are the number of heartbeats and the electrical conductance of the skin.
In May 2016, observers subjected eight participants to nine different types of living and working environments in the same removable interior space, whose functions are changed - by changing partitions, furniture, colours, etc. - and whose functions are not the same. - to compare variations in the results recorded.
 
The different adaptable factors in the laboratory for measuring well-being in the interior space (Image retouched and translated by the author)
 
As real estate develops rapidly, the researchers in this laboratory are trying to find the balance that maintains health in the face of the increasing advance of construction technology. They hope to further develop the criteria of the WELL certification standard, launched in October 2014 after six years of research. What are the results?
The results of the first observations, announced in February 2018, confirm, for example, the effectiveness of blue lighting on professional productivity. (4). In addition, the laboratory was able to record differences in well-being, behaviour, mood, quality of sleep and job performance based on several factors including ambient temperature, light and the ability to engage in daily physical activities in the living or working environment. In fact, these factors adequately combined improved employee satisfaction by 66% and productivity by 21%, while lowering absenteeism by 56%. (5).
 
Well Living Lab researchers announced in February 2018 that their research will be further developed over the next three years. (6). On the other hand, the laboratory is ready to welcome researchers in this field and to sponsor research that develops economical technologies focused on comfort. In this way, they hope to raise awareness of health and well-being in designed spaces, especially in developed or developing metropolises and urban agglomerations. (7). What kind of architecture will be waiting for us in the coming years for a therapeutic city?

 
 
(1) Anthes, E. (2016). The Office Experiment, Can Science Build the Perfect Workspace? Nature, 537(7620), 294. doi: 10.1038/537294a
(2) Maria A. El Helou is an architect and member of the assembly of delegates to the Beirut Order of Engineers and Architects. Maria A. El Helou currently holds a PhD in architecture from the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki in Greece . She is an administrative member of the Association of Architects in Lebanon.
(3) Delos Living (2016, February 8). WELL Certification Intro [Online Video]. Accessible : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vd7f7VNB_dQ

(4) Mayo Clinic (2018, February 24). Well Living Lab Results: Mayo Clinic Radio. Online Video:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tCq98BtMIY0

(5) USGBC (U.S. Green Building Council) (2005, 15 May). Course preview: Introduction to the WELL Building Stand. Online Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xd8Rd82WlG4
(7) Santiago, Y. M. (n.d.). Designing Spaces for Health and Wellbeing
 

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