Is there a connection between our homes and our health and well being? Should we be considering this topic and the design considerations, just as much as what beautiful bathroom fixtures and wood floor stains to choose?
For various reasons, I took an interest as a builder some years ago trying to understand the dynamic between how we design/build/live in our homes and the impact this indoor environment can have on our moods and stress levels. I fortuitously stumbled across two studies by Johns Hopkins researchers on the connection between the built (indoor) environment and hospital patients suffering from depression (Rubin et al, 1998). One study compared the length of stay for 174 patients who were randomly assigned to a “sunny” or “dull” hospital room. Those in the sunny rooms stayed an average of 16.9 days, compared to 19.5 days for patients in the rooms without sun. The results held true regardless of season. Of course this is a study within a specific group, but it still represented a 15% difference, simply by introducing natural sunlight into our living spaces.
It got me thinking about natural light having this kind of impact, and if there was a connection between the environments we live in and the direct impact on our health. What about other design features that we could design and build into clients’ homes that offer additional benefits? Some of these include acoustic privacy (reducing “noise”), materials that do not off-gas for years post construction to help purify the indoor air quality we breathe, the organization and flow of space, and even our connection to the outdoors from our indoor spaces. These considerations do not have to take away from or eclipse beautiful interior decorating and finishes, which remain paramount. When we purposefully design and build with all five senses in mind instead of just one, the difference can be astounding…and healthy for us!