Can A Building Design Impact Our Health?

Can a building design impact our health? According to Nick Mira of Propel Studio, building design can have a large impact on our health and probably in more ways than you think.

In every project Propel Studio designs, the team balances the client’s needs and budget with building science, material selection, and the health of the people that will use the building. Imagine designing an office building where workers are happier, healthier and more efficient, or a school where students are more focused and better prepared to learn.

For Nick, the starting point for designing a healthy building is choosing “a palette of materials that don’t contain toxins.” We don’t want to be poisoned inside our own buildings. Paying attention to the adhesives in woods, the fabrics and furniture that we buy, and paint we select are great starting points, but there’s more to it. If we consider the air outside to be our gold standard, we need to bring as much of that fresh air inside our buildings as possible and not contaminate it with toxic VOC (volatile organic compounds often found in paint, adhesives and other materials, that off-gas into the air).

When many people think about healthy indoor design, they think about breathing, but what about our mental health? Nick points out that a connection to the outside is more than just fresh air exchanges.

“Being able to see outside, to be aware of the cycles of night and day and be able to focus on something bigger than us is important. Creating spaces for interaction, either with nature or for social interaction is critical for our mental health.”

Obviously, we all want to be healthy but unfortunately, one of the biggest struggles in designing and building healthy homes and schools and office buildings and hospitals is lack of knowledge and expertise. Whether you’re interviewing Architects or Contractors for your project, Nick Mira suggests asking few questions:

  • Do you have any certifications for specifying healthy building materials?

  • What should I be concerned about when choosing the materials and furniture for my project?

  • Can I tour one of your previous projects? You want to experience the building and even interview the people using the building. A great follow up question: What critical decisions were made during the design and construction of this building that affects the health of the people in it?

We all want to be healthy. We want our schools, offices, and homes to be healthy buildings. According to Nick Mira, a Partner at Propel Studio in Portland, Oregon, the number one reason that we should design healthy buildings “is that we can and we should.”