The ultimate test for architecture and design: do our buildings and spaces cause health?

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The ultimate test for architecture and design: do our buildings and spaces cause health?
Credit Valley Hospital // Photograph © Scott Norsworthy

“What if our health became the basis for judging every building and every public space? What if each of us – every person, everywhere – asked, ‘Does this place cause health? How does it make me feel?’” – Tye Farrow, Farrow Partners

In the architecture and design industry, the word ‘health’ usually brings to mind hospital and clinic projects. But health is not a building typology, said Canadian architect Tye Farrow of Farrow Partners at a presentation he recently gave at the Australian Institute of Architects. Instead, it is a term that has experienced a “leap upstream” from the medical to design realms, with a range of design factors having an influence on both our physical health and state of mind.

The ultimate design test for Farrow when looking at new spaces and architecture, be it a streetscape, an office building, or a hospital, is therefore assessing how healthy they are. In turn, this means architects and building designers must turn their attention from the technical aspects of sustainability, such as a building’s carbon footprint, to whether a space ‘causes health’, or allows people to thrive mentally, socially and physically. ….

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