How Architecture Affects Our Quality of Life

How Architecture Affects Our Quality of Life

People spend most of their day in or around buildings.  Homes, offices, schools, and stores are all types of architecture in which the design can affect the way we feel, how we behave, and the impact on our health.   When we enter a building or home, our senses react accordingly.   We notice the colors, sounds, and smells immediately.  Our comfort and mood can change depending on the atmosphere of the space.  Architects and interior designers strive to design buildings and spaces that are functional while making people happy, healthy and comfortable.

Colin Ellard, a neuroscientist and psychological researcher at the University of Waterloo in Canada, has done many studies on how people are affected by a building’s façade.  He found that people react negatively to simple, monotonous storefronts and tend to quickly walk by, but respond positively to the complex and interesting ones that draw them in.  It may sound like a simple concept, yet some architects still tend to design simple and sleek even when research has shown the opposite.

Color is also an important design element that affects our mood and behavior.  As noted by the Center for the Study of Art and Architecture, “the architect must consider the color effect of every element of a building’s construction, from the earthy colors of primary construction materials like wood, stone, brick, and marble, to the expansive variety of colors available for paint, doors, windows, siding, and trim.”  The impression of a color and the message it conveys is of utmost importance in creating the psychological mood or ambiance that supports the function of a space.  For example, the color blue has a calming effect, while yellow conveys cheer and warmth.  Orange and red can be stimulating, while green is perceived as more relaxing and tranquil.

Another factor to consider in design is daylighting.  Daylighting is the practice of placing windows, other openings, and reflective surfaces so that sunlight (direct or indirect) can provide effective internal lighting.  When daylighting is properly executed, not only will it be visually enhancive, but it will also result in sustainable and energy efficient buildings. Researchers have found that a well daylighted space can also have a positive physiological impact on a person’s circadian rhythm.  Often referred to as the “body clock,” the circadian rhythm, which primarily responds to light and darkness, is an internal cycle that tells our bodies when to sleep, wake up, and eat.

Another element that impacts our mood, behavior and health is having access to green spaces. Studies have shown that having access to parks, playgrounds, community gardens and public plazas can lower depression and anxiety and improve overall health.   Vancouver, which consistently rates as one of the most popular places to live, has policies in place for its downtown buildings to ensure that residents have views of the mountains, forests, and ocean.  A 2008 study conducted in England found that populations that are exposed to the greenest environments also have the lowest levels of health inequality related to income deprivation. Physical environments that promote good health can be important to reduce socioeconomic health inequalities.  This finding is especially important when designing buildings and their surroundings in big cities.  Having green areas can also help mitigate the urban heat island effect by filtering air and reducing runoff.

There are so many elements to consider when designing a building or space.  It is important to take into consideration the physiological effects the design will have on the people using it.  If you need help designing a space, give JL Architects a call and we’ll be happy to help!

-Amy Estrella