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UCL Institute for Environmental Design and Engineering


Blogs from UCL IEDE Staff and Students


Buildings, Health and Wellbeing: A New Emphasis

By Clive Shrubsole, on 23 May 2016

Dame Bradbury School

The reality of climate change has had a dramatic impact on the built environment world wide. ‘Energy efficiency’, ‘emissions reduction’ and ‘sustainable materials’ have all become common currency to architects and engineers. However, research on the impacts of energy efficient design on the indoor enviroment has created a new focus around the issues of ‘healthy environments’, ‘wellbeing’ and ‘increased productivity’.

Over the last 20 years ‘environmental sustainability’ in buildings has gone from a niche enterprise to a major driver of new business. This is no longer enough and buildings will also be expected to directly contribute to the health and wellbeing of the people who live, work and learn inside them. For buildings, ‘healthy’ will become the new green.

As this healthy revolution emerged backed up by research, more clients have started concerning themselves with a building’s impact on the performance of the people who use it every day eyeing potential productivity gains as well as health benefits.

Several initiatives within the built environment industry indicate a new level of interest in health, wellbeing and buildings. The World Green Building Council has launched the campaign Building Better Places for People, that “aims to create a world in which buildings support healthier and happier lives for those who occupy them”.

Several design, engineering, and consultancy firms have joined ‘the wellbeing revolution’ and are now launching new business divisions with a focus on health, wellbeing and productivity. ARUP Associates which provides engineering, design, planning, project management and consulting services worldwide has formed a partnership with Delos and the International Well Building Institute, to support the WELL Building Certification which offers a structured framework against which to optimise design and construction for human health. Atkins has developed an innovative engagement process and tool that enables clients and building users to prioritise aspects of the built environment that are important to their health and wellbeing. Priorities captured through the process are then translated into a building brief and specification.

UCL IEDE with its world wide expertise have been at the forefront of research into the health impacts of sustainable construction and have closely monitored this change in focus and the need for a new generation of trained professionals who are familiar with the issues of health in building construction.

This has culminated in the launch of  a new MSc in Health, Wellbeing and Sustainable Buildings Commencing in Sept 2017, this innovative Master degree will provide its students with the knowledge, critical understanding and skills needed to address health, wellbeing and human performance for the design/assessment/operation of new-build, retrofit and existing buildings, within the broader context of sustainability at the urban and global scales.

To be part of the wellbeing revolution, see further information on www.bartlett.ucl.ac.uk/iede.


Photo credit: Daniel Shearing/Chadwick Dryer Clarke. Dame Bradbury’s School, Tree of Knowledge Library