With all the seasonal noise around A Level results and clearing opportunities for the latest crop of would-be students, one new course appears to have slipped under the radar yet could have an incalculable impact on our future.
Ploughing through the list of available courses, which gets more expansive and, some might say, irrelevant in terms of academic or practical importance, I was struck by the title of a new programme in London focusing entirely on the built environment.
The MSc Health, Wellbeing and Sustainable Buildings programme starts this month at UCL in its Institute for Environmental Design and Engineering, part of Bartlett – the university’s global faculty of the built environment.
Long overdue and most welcome in its launch, the course will build on the institute’s work in exploring connections between the built environment and health, wellbeing, productivity, energy use and climate change.
The Masters programme outline boasts that it will ‘drive innovation for health and wellbeing in the design, assessment, retrofit and operation of residential and non-domestic sustainable buildings’.
As organisers note, for buildings, ‘healthy’ is becoming the new complementary ‘green’ so the new generation of experts with skills required to tackle such issues that this course will produce has got to be a good thing.
The IEDE has already produced research projects on the impact of greenhouse gases on public health, indoor air quality in schools and the health effects of moisture in buildings.
As most of us spend most of our time inside a building of one sort or another, the condition of them is paramount to our health and wellbeing as they can cause physical illness or affect our mood and performance according to elements such as lighting.
The World Health Organisation states “Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.”
And so wellbeing in relation to the built environment takes into consideration such issues as indoor air quality, acoustics, design including colours, shapes and textures, layouts and furniture
And when the designers and planners get it right, the benefits to those inhabiting such spaces include higher levels of concentration (and thus productivity), and creativity, lower levels of CO2 and stress, healthier sleep patterns and reduced eye strain and headaches.
What’s not to love?
In its first major report published as part of its Better Places For Britain campaign, the World Green Building Council suggested that retailers an improve the shopping experience for customers and ‘potentially increase their profits by providing greener, healthier stores’.
And the Building Research Establishment (BRE) is constantly on hand to deliver advice, training and certification for the construction and built environment sectors to improve the impact of developments on our wellbeing.
The BREEAM sustainability assessment for buildings goes a long way towards ensuring developments integrate healthy living concepts into their planning processes. We are delighted to offer consulting in this critical area of work to clients.
Our work in relation to lighting, acoustics, energy, M&E and air quality is also beneficial to organisations seeking to put health and wellbeing of building occupancy at the top of their agenda.
So as all new students embark on this next phase of their life, we wish them well and encourage them to shout from the rooftops, green or otherwise, about the need for a sustainable built environment so forthcoming generations of students and others can enjoy a healthier future.