Urban Living: Putting People First
by Francesca Galeazzi - Sustainability Specialist at Arup
Today 54% of the world's population lives in urban areas, a proportion that is expected to increase to 66% by 2050. Besides the imperatives to provide housing, infrastructure, transportation, employment, education and healthcare, cities are under increasing pressure to do more for their inhabitants.
This scale of urbanization is forcing cities to think outside of the box and to look for ways to generate more social value out of their investments. We are witnessing a paradigm shift in the way cities are envisioning their future: from doing less bad to actively doing good, from reducing environmental impacts to adopting restorative and healing policies.
There is ample evidence that proves that environments designed for health and wellness can prevent chronic diseases and positively support individual health and productivity.There is ample evidence that proves that environments designed for health and wellness can prevent chronic diseases and positively support individual health and productivity, as well as the wellbeing of entire communities. Unfortunately buildings are rarely designed with people in mind and until recently sustainability designers could only certify buildings based on measurements of their environmental impact (such as the LEED and the BREEAM certifications). However last year the WELL Building Standard was launched and I thought: finally we are starting to focus on the most essential piece of the equation.
The WELL Building Standard is a new and rigorous method to assess buildings optimized for human health and wellness. It complements the traditional environmental rating tools but offers a more holistic and complete approach to sustainable buildings. What is interesting is that WELL brings human health and wellbeing to the forefront of the decision making process of building designers and operators. Catering policies and lightning designed for supporting the human circadian rhythm. The new assessment method brings human health and wellbeing to the forefront of the decision making process.
Besides the rigorous requirements of comfort, air and water quality, I think that the true innovation in WELL resides in those building aspects that usually are not considered: for example catering policies that include food with high nutritional value, lighting design that supports the human circadian rhythm or placing staircases in prominent locations to encourage people to walk more.
The bottom line is that people need more from the buildings and cities in which they live, work and play. The time has come to start putting people first.
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