Resolutions For A Healthier Built Environment
The holiday season’s gift catalogs were filled with wearable devices that help build accountability for physical activity, caloric intake, and weight-loss goals. Many of these gadgets help users stay motivated in the most common goal for the new year—to be healthier.
As the trend for health and wellness likewise grows for providers in this new era of risk-averse affordable care, the industry is approaching a tipping point that requires discovery of new ways to build health-oriented spaces. Like the growth in wellness-related gifts, requests for design services that improve health outcomes will likely increase.
With that in mind, what follows are four New Year’s resolutions to help identify solutions for a healthier built environment.
Create awareness around a baseline of knowledge. What design interventions hold the most power to influence health and wellness? The healthcare design community is poised to own this conversation. Like our focus on safety in healthcare some 15 years ago, we need a good analysis of the literature to find the best design interventions that are already in place today. We clearly understand the importance of providing access to nature—or when that can’t be achieved, how to use appropriate art in its place; the significance of light and the effects various exposures have on well-being; or the negative effect that noise can have on healing. These are just a few of the topics we can bring to other design sectors.
Identify best practices. The trend to design for health and wellness is growing at the fringes of our clinical environments but is also moving into developer-driven corporate and residential design. In 2014, the International Well Building Institute and the Green Building Certification Institute (GBCI) announced a collaboration to streamline how LEED and Well work together, including GBCI providing third-party certification for the Well Building Standard. Follow these projects and see where they’re making traction in improving life indoors. Using your healthcare evidence-based design experience, build upon this knowledge base to create a more robust conversation at the design table.
Build a strong research agenda. Those who are early adopters should share their research findings with the field, much like The Center for Health Design’s Pebble Project participants do. This is how traction is achieved for emerging trends; once new ideas are proven, others will adopt them, as well. If you’re unclear about which design interventions impact health, consider using the resources found in The Center’s online Knowledge Repository to develop a baseline. The appropriate hypotheses will become evident to launch a solid research agenda for desired outcomes. Make sure to also find and follow grant requests that are aligned with your research agenda, as a lot of health and wellness research is being funded right now.
Build the business case. We’ve learned that design interventions will be measured by a provider’s C-suite through careful financial analysis of first costs and return on investment. The sooner we provide this data, the sooner we’ll be able to launch the innovation needed to create healthier environments. These types of quantifiable reports will also help garner media attention of work occurring in this field and fuel demand, subsequently bolstering funding for even more research.
Like previous innovations in healthcare design, designing for health and wellness will require an initiation period, but these four steps will allow you to contribute knowhow to help shape a new healthcare delivery system. This understanding of the impact design has on health and wellness isn’t simply a trend but rather a shift in the maturation of our building sciences, and you’re the experts who can provide valuable insight on this topic. Here’s to a happy and healthy 2015!