Mental Health and Building Design

We all dream of living in functional spaces that can accommodate us and be a haven for our lifestyle. Whether we have pets, children or live alone- our homes are our sanctuaries. Yet, many houses and apartments are not designed to be an ideal place, especially for those struggling with mental health. As of 2020 alone, about 1 in 6 youth experience a mental health disorder each year.

Research suggests that depression, loneliness, elevated blood pressure and lower academic performance can be found among children who live in older and crowded homes. Since it is estimated that we spend 90% of our time indoors, the issue is not limited to homes, but other buildings like schools and workspaces.

Aside from living in crowded dwellings, some building designs can have negative impacts on mental health. Architects are recognizing this and are working to keep health as a consideration. The American Institute of Architects (AIA) have come up with a list of features that can influence both physical and mental health of people. They suggest:

  •     Improve natural light
  •     Have nature be part of the design as much as possible, such as plants and wildlife
  •     Set the mood with color
  •     Adding a social space
  •     Consider other senses and think of windows and insulation

The author of Rethinking Mental Health in Architecture explained the role of architecture in the mental health space: “We have to be realistic.  Good architecture isn’t going to provide magical cures to people with severe mental health problems – this is a fact.  Architecture won’t replace the amazing advances being made in science and medicine.  But by providing comfortable, well-designed spaces where people feel happy and safe, we can improve the day-to-day happiness of people who use them, which – in my opinion – is a powerful way of keeping people in a better mental place”

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