The link between good planning and good health is unequivocal. The quality of the built and natural environment has a significant impact on health and wellbeing. Occupiers and developers are becoming more aware of how happy and healthy employees (and customers) drive profitability and there is now industry recognition that a building can affect how well we feel. The launch of the WELL Building Standard is further proof of this and aims to advance health, happiness and productivity.
New innovations are being devised at a rapid rate. Healthy buildings can now include: biophilic planting; highly sensitive temperature, light, clean air and noise control systems which allow individuals to modify their own working or living environment; rooftop cinemas and relaxation rooms.
Considering the health implications of a particular development is not new to the planning world. National guidance, the London Plan and a number of local plans already encourage the submission of “health impact assessments” as part of the planning process. However, there has been a noticeable shift in attitude recently as climate change and wellbeing are taken seriously at a national and global level.
Improvements to air quality are high on the political agenda, particularly following the controversial legal battle resulting in the publication of the Government’s draft air quality plan.
EU Directive 2014/52/EU obliged the UK to address health in environmental impact assessments, which may be required as part of a planning application. The new legislation, which came into effect on 16 May 2017, adds human health to the list of environmental factors to be considered as part of the assessment.
Some buildings are already leading the way in air quality, visual acuity, acoustics and psychology within the working environment. There is also a focus on the connection of facilities and services to the internet. This not only revolutionises the building management system, but also provides invaluable data on what users want and where future investment can be focused.
The introduction of cutting edge sustainability and well-being measures into developments should ensure that our minds, bodies and buildings are all in better shape.