The Big Question

Can we prevent through lifestyle and well-being, rather than just a cure?

Of all deaths worldwide, 70% are caused by cardiovascular and respiratory disease, diabetes and cancer — with alcohol, diet and a lack of exercise the catalyst.

Of course, these are largely Western and preventable afflictions.

Our consumer lifestyle of convenience and entropy is destroying our physical and mental health.

As a society, can we prevent through lifestyle and well-being, rather than just a cure?

We need to design buildings for health and happiness.

“Population growth, climate change and urbanisation will result in a large percentage of the world’s population migrating to live in cities.

The new buildings and places where we live, work and play will have a direct impact on every aspect of our health.

When we think of creating spaces that could make a real difference to our emotional states and our relationships to the physical world, we must do away with the standard procedural-based metrics and compliance considerations and start with a blank sheet.

What if we could design places that made you mentally and physically well, that make you happy? What would this look like and how would we go about delivering it?

Case Study
Bring the outside, in

With 90% of the NHS budget spent on treating disease, it’s clear that preventative action is needed to help the burden. But the old adage of fresh air and exercise fails us when we spend 90% of our time cooped up indoors at home or at work.

Especially when research suggests that time in nature can minimise stress and enhance emotional well-being. Seeing trees, hearing birdsong is particularly powerful to those with mental health issues. How then, to bring the outside in?

In its headquarters in Seattle, Amazon has built three biodomes complete with a botanical garden and 40,000 plants to help staff de-stress. At Sydney’s One Central Park, the façades of two residential towers are alive with indigenous and exotic plants. In 2020, work will begin on Liuzhou Forest City, designed by Stefano Boeri Architetti. New residential and commercial spaces, plus schools and a hospital, will be carpeted by millions of plants and trees.

Are autonomous vehicles, hyperloop and drones really the future for healthy cities?

“ While many futurists speculate that the humans of tomorrow will be flying in autonomous UberPlanes, drones, and ‘hyperlooping’ between our cities — the reality should be much simpler, and a lot healthier.

Rather than innovating huge, expensive solutions that preserve our blind-spot bad habits and stop us changing for the better — perhaps we could return to a simpler above-ground transportation system based on walking and cycling, rediscovering the joy of slower, but effective movement.

We first need to understand the socio-economic drivers that force people to travel. Can we create places to reduce this need? If we used the lens of a cyclist and walker to inform our design for movement — could this also impact on the health of our society?”

Case Study
Ride to work

Despite the many benefits of public transport it’s not without its own problems. A recent study found 35% of people ‘pulled a sicky’ as they couldn’t afford the commute.

Equally, new research found that the air quality on London’s Underground was 30 times more dangerous than above ground by a busy road. An hour on the tube breathing in heavy metals was equivalent to a full day above ground in ambient London air.

Above and below our air quality is failing us, so how can we clean it? Perhaps a simple solution could come from the corporate world. HSBC is getting rid of 90% of its 700 staff car-parking spaces installing bike racks instead. The move is part of an eight-year, £100 million programme, part of which is that the bank’s 34,000 workforce will act as guinea pigs as researchers from the universities of Glasgow and Edinburgh will study their physical health, motivation and the number of sick days they take after they start cycling.