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Designing, Building a Healthier Public

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

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From germ-fighting surfaces to better playgrounds, sunny stairwells and colors that soothe, a new research consortium aims to design and build spaces that promote health and well-being.

Eleven architecture schools and schools of public health are the new charter members of the Design & Health Research Consortium, spearheaded by the American Institute of Architects.

The consortium includes "the nation’s leading thinkers about the growing connection between design and public health,” said AIA CEO Robert Ivy, FAIA.

MantuaPhiladelphia
Trend

At Drexel University in Philadelphia, teams will study the West Philadelphia neighborhood of Mantua, evaluating the impact of urban design on residents' health and well-being.

“We chose them because their research has the best potential for affecting policy across a wide swath of issues at the intersection of the built environment and public health.”

The initiative also includes the AIA Foundation and the Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture.

3 Years, 6 Approaches

Initially a three-year effort, the consortium will offer opportunities for collaboration and shared knowledge in a wide variety of areas. The partners also hope to promote consortium activities and actionable findings with potential funders.

All of the research efforts follow one or more of six evidence-based approaches to influencing better health through the built environment. Those approaches are:

  • Environmental quality;
  • Natural systems;
  • Physical activity;
  • Safety;
  • Sensory environments; and
  • Social connectedness.
SidewalkBikePath
Wikimedia Commons / 123df

Using a variety of evidence-based approaches, the physical environment can create health opportunities and facilitate positive health behaviors, according to AIA.

The approaches "recognize that the physical environment creates health opportunities and facilitates positive health behaviors," AIA said in an announcement about the initiative.

Partners and Agendas

The team members and summaries of their efforts follow. Full descriptions are available here.

Center for Health Systems & Design, College of Architecture, Texas A&M University. This research examines how the built and natural health-care environments affect patients, influence healing, pain relief, quality health care, physical activity, social interaction, work flow and other behaviors.

Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health and Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation. Studying communities in the mega-cities of New York City and Rio de Janeiro, the team will focus on ways in which architecture and urban design create built environments that support physically active lifestyles.

Drexel University. Teams from the School of Public Health and Westphal College of Media Arts & Design will study a depressed West Philadelphia neighborhood, evaluating and measuring the impact of urban design on residents' health and well-being.

RiodeJaneiro
Wikimedia Commons / Chensiyuan

Megacities like Rio de Janeiro are the wave of the future. Teams from Columbia University are examining how urban design can support physically active lifestyles.

NewSchool of Architecture & Design, Innovative Design Science. This neuro-architectural focus will include the influence of design on circadian rhythms, cognitive function, medical errors, and educational outcomes. "Smart" wearable sensors track how individuals react to changing conditions in the built environment in order to promote physical activity and healthy behaviors.

School of Architecture, Design and Planning, University of Kansas. Collaboring with engineering, design, urban planning, sociology, public health and medical researchers, the team's focus will include design for infection control, air quality and thermal comfort and improving the efficiency of outdated rural health-care facilities.

Texas Tech University College of Architecture. Focusing on 108 counties in West Texas, the team will study new uses for tele-health technologies; community planning and design influence on obesity and chronic diseases, and other health and well-being issues in rural settings.

MicrobialSampling
University of Oregon Biology and Built Environment Center

Healthy and unhealthy microbes thrive better in some built environments than in others. Teams from the University of Oregon Biology and Built Environment Center aim to find out which kind does better where.

University of Arizona Institute on Place and Wellbeing. Wearable sensors and other technologies are being used to measure health and well-being responses in several building types (including hospitals and offices) and urban settings. 

University of Florida. The team will develop performance measures of residential building systems, spatial and design configurations, and community infrastructure to improve the safety, health, activity and social connectedness of older adults.

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, School of Architecture. The team will examine physiological responses to stress to develop evidence-based design tools for the creation of healthier homes and neighborhoods.

miami.gov

Two-thirds of Miami-Dade County's 2.6 million residents are overweight or obese. A three-year Neighborhood Park Project aims to improve those numbers.

University of Miami School of Architecture and Miller School of Medicine Department of Public Health Sciences. The Miami-Dade County “Neighborhood Park Project” aims to improve the environment and personal health through increased physical activity and social interaction. Two-thirds of the county’s 2.6 million residents are overweight or obese.

University of Oregon. The design of the built environment has been shown to influence which microorganisms are present and thriving. This project will explore those linkages and their effect on health. It will also research how parks and other green infrastructure may cleanse air pollutants.

 

   

Tagged categories: American Institute of Architects (AIA); Building design; Health and safety; Research

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