Miyajima Misen Observatory, Sambuichi Architects
Can building design leave a positive impact on our bodies and minds? Can we drive value through user-centric design for people, business and society? What is healthy building design? How does it look, feel and affect us?
These were the questions more than 500 architects, researchers and building professionals discussed in Paris, France, at VELUX Daylight Symposium and Healthy Buildings Day, which is the only forum in the world, dedicated to explore the role of daylight in buildings and how healthy building design can be a cornerstone in business today.
The Healthy Homes Barometer 2019, taking the temperature of today’s housing standard, was also launched, unveiling that there is a serious problem with today’s building stock. In fact, every third child in Europe live in what the research institute RAND Europe labels as an unhealthy building, characterized by dampness, darkness, excess noise and cold temperatures.
Fortunately, there are many things we can do to address this issue Joseph Allen, assistant professor of exposure assessment science at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, pointed out as a response and highlighted 36 different ways to create healthier homes.
“Your home equals your health. It’s as simple as that,” he said, while unfolding his vision for Homes for Health, based on 9 foundations of a healthy building, developed under the Healthy Buildings Program, which he directs at Harvard (Chan’s School’s Department of Environmental Health).
“Buildings have a huge impact on our health & wellbeing; we need to acknowledge this major role, be specific about the user-centric design aspects, and quantify into tangible and relatable values,” agreed Lone Feifer, architect and head of VELUX Healthy Buildings Day.
The design options are endless
Architects, representing very different practices and geographies, showed how they have designed for health and comfort; and always with the needs and life-pattern of the homeowner in mind.
Nicholas Michelin, founder of ANMA, dwelled upon the relationship between natural light and architectural design and illustrated this through different achievements how it continues to reinvent itself according to the context of each operation.
"The light that is introduced in architecture is architecture revealed. It’s through contrasts that it comes alive. And so, shadows become sharper and our eyes relish the volumes," Michelin said, while demonstrating this in some key projects, the Arènes de Nîmes, the Art School of Limoges, the theater of Chatenay-Malabry, the university library of Strasbourg, the gallery ARTEM in Nancy or new types of urban planning projects such as Les Bassins à Flot Housing, in the historice area of Bordeaux, France.
How do we move from “one” to “many” and catalyze scale?
Professional house builders and developers, from North America and Europe, presented their take on house designs, delivering value for customers and the bottom-line of their business, while living up to today’s building requirements and different certification schemes.
Leading the Canadian home building industry as the first to include healthy building design, Great Gulf succeeded in combining climate care and use of resources to improve comfort for people living, working and enjoying their homes. “The question for us is no any longer, if homeowners want it, but HOW we turn this into a solid business and make healthy buildings affordable, so it’s not only for “the few” but also for the majority,” said Tad Putyra, Great Gulf President Low Rise.
Morten Chrone from HusCompagniet, having built more than 20.000 residential houses across Denmark, backed this strong point: “Liveability, comfort and well-being have turned into driving parameters for many of the homeowners we talk to, when we start a dialogue about their house dreams. Often good daylight conditions and a healthy living space are mentioned as part of such a concept but many think this is far too costly and are positively surprised when we get to the point where we present the price.”
HusCompagniet is a Northern European market leader with strong presence in Denmark, Sweden and Germany, having annually sold and built almost 2000 homes. HusCompagniet takes pride in providing high quality houses at a favorable price based on credibility and well-being.
Harwil de Jonge, director of the large Dutch building developer, Heijmans Real Estate, with an annual revenue of EUR 500 million, backed this viewpoint and made a strong statement: “Healthy living should be for everyone, but unfortunately that is still not reality. In Heijmans we thoroughly evaluate our use of building materials: Are they healthy? Are they sustainable?”.
He also explained how their partnership with the Dutch certification partner, NL Greenlabel, turned a new-build residential neighbourhood in Hooghkamer, providing 283 more new homes once complete, in a much healthier and sustainable direction.
Making sense for the user
Occupant experiences were also brought forward. A Canadian family told how they felt living in a healthily designed house compared to their everyday life in a more traditional Canadian house. The family of four moved into a newly built house by Great Gulf, designed to fulfill a new certification for healthy and sustainable buildings, Active House, aimed at creating healthier and more comfortable homes for their occupants without burdening the climate.
“We found that the experience was all about the comfort of the house. My comfort highlight was the fresh air, I found that I sleep better in this house, I feel better and I feel more alert,” highlighted the father Russell Ibbotson after having lived for half a year in the healthily designed home. “Once you’ve tried it, you don’t want to “leave”,“ he concluded.