Design of a building can affect health
Do you know that the environment you live in can contribute significantly towards your stress? Some of the environmental characteristics with direct effect on mental health include housing, crowding, noise, indoor air quality, and light. A 2012 study by UK–based design firm IBI Nightingale conducted jointly with the University of Salford, found that the confluence of classroom design features such as room orientation, acoustics, and furniture can enhance or hurt a student’s academic progress by up to 25 per cent during the course of a year. Although there is near consensus on the relationship between housing quality and psychological distress, planners and property stakeholders have failed to address this problem in a holistic manner. In many parts of Nairobi it may be too late to change. This has made some urban dwellers to reduce stress by overdrinking, getting hooked on drugs, domestic violence and other deviant behaviour. We always realise when schools close how unfriendly our environment is. This is why there has been a proliferation of holiday camps in sports, religion, mentoring, cooking and so on. New studies suggest that a school’s physical design can improve or worsen children’s academic performance by 25 per cent in early years. Schools with leaking roofs, mouldy walls and dangling ceiling tiles can cause significant levels of stress.
Many employees are suffering from anxiety or depression at their workplaces. Sitting the whole day can literally kill you! The World Health Organisation now lists inactivity as the fourth-biggest killer of adults, but what does our architecture and space planning do to us? Does it heal or exacerbate the problem? Making an office work for your employees through natural light, proper aeration and temperature, good facilities, colour and greenery can boost their productivity. When we are exposed to areas which are either harsh or dimly lit, we could be prone to headaches and confusion. Different lighting requirements might be appropriate for different work activities, job functions and individual requirements. Break out areas for staff should be designed with more space and a variety of seating options. Unfortunately, many home spatial qualities have deteriorated especially in Eastlands, Githurai, Rongai, Kilimani, Westlands and Kileleshwa. Their spaces have been grabbed. The problem is in the policing of policy. Who ensures that developers provide sufficient play area in urban developments? Can we think of partnering with companies that can develop commercial facilities, say members club, sports club on, say, 25 per cent of the land, and that can commit to maintain the remaining 75 per cent of the open area for the community on a BOT (Build, Operate and Transfer) model? It is time we worked to create a different, friendlier and healthier architectural space for the benefit of our well-being.