AIA’s design and health initiative

Architects are uniquely positioned to help address many of the chronic health challenges our society faces today. From asthma to obesity, diabetes to depression, a growing body of practice-based evidence is clearly demonstrating the profound impact that forward-looking design decisions can have on human health for individuals and communities.

That’s why we launched our design and health initiative. When health impacts and equitable access to healthy places become central to the design and planning process, transformational outcomes quickly appear. Architects are improving health outcomes for people and communities and enhancing well-being, safety and environmental quality through our collaborations with private businesses, health professionals, policy makers, government agencies, foundations, nonprofits, allied organizations and others.

The design and health initiative's work includes:

  • researching novel approaches and developing best practices to promote health through design
  • convening policy, health and built environment experts through our landmark Design & Health Research Consortium and the 2014 Value of Design summit
  • advocating for healthier policies and programs at the local, state and federal levels
  • educating the public, the profession, policy makers and allied industries about architects’ unique role in promoting health equity, including through courses on AIAU and seminars at our annual convention

Connecting design and health in new ways

In 2014, we convened experts in design, health and policy for the Value of Design summit. One outcome was the development of six evidence-based approaches designers can use to promote health and well-being:

1. Environmental quality: Preventing, mitigating and reversing chemical and microbial pollutants that harm public health

2. Natural systems: Utilizing natural forms, diverse species and existing ecosystems that relieve stress, accelerate recuperation, encourage healthy eating and promote physical and social activity

3. Physical activity: Encouraging exercise, recreation and other daily activities that lower the risk of cardiovascular disease and other health problems

4. Safety: Reducing accidental injury and crime to remove impediments to physical activity and alleviate anxiety and stress

5. Sensory environments: Diversifying the touch, smell and acoustics of an environment to promote safety, improve physical, mental and emotional well-being and enhance quality of life

6. Social connectedness: Strengthening personal and professional relationships and encouraging behaviors like civic participation to increase happiness and ensure communities function more effectively

Design and Health resources

Image credits