The Great Indoors by Emily Anthes

  • over the next 40 years, amount of indoor square footage will roughly double worldwide
  • warm, dim lighting makes school kids less fidgety and aggressive
  • rates of dementia tend to be lower in rural areas
  • urban living is more stimulating and complex, and thus protects the brain
  • good design expands what is possible
  • nudges us in the right direction, supports cultural organizational change, allows us to express our values
  • good architecture can help us lead healthier, happier, more productive lives, create more just, humane societies, increase our odds of survival in a precarious world
  • microbes rule the planet, making themselves at home in nearly all of its habitats
  • our bodies are home to a restless mess of microbes, some are capable of causing disease, but others are crucial partners in maintaining our health
  • our houses could be teeming with organisms that are essentially unknown to science
  • as our architectural choices have evolved, so has the indoor microbiome
  • our homes aren’t just ecosystems, they’re unique ones, hosting species that are adapted to indoor environments and pushing evolution in new directions
  • pollen and plant matter drift in from outdoors
  • children who live with dogs, which increase the richness and diversity of bacteria in the home, are less sensitive to allergens and less likely to develop asthma
  • we’re no longer exposed to the same rich assortment of microbes in early life — “old friends hypothesis”
  • the absolute best way to keep a home healthy is to keep it dry
  • boosting the rate of air ventilation can help eliminate pathogens and contaminants
  • removing carpeting can reduce concentration and persistence of allergens indoors
  • lay off household products that are expressly designed to kill microbes
  • coating the inside of our homes with antimicrobial compounds can wipe out the good microbes along with the bad
  • keep things dry, forgo cleansers, and materials that contain added antimicrobials
  • open a window, get a dog
  • hospital design affects patient outcomes
  • in hospitals, architecture can literally save lives, decrease stress and alleviate pain, improve sleep and elevate mood, reduce medical errors and prevent patient falls, curb infections and speed recovery
  • Nightingale endorsed an emerging design concept known as the pavilion style hospital, in which long, skinny patient wards extended from a central corridor
  • access to fresh air, daylight, nature
  • design trend didn’t last, as hospitals started relying on antibiotics and chemical disinfection, rather than sunlight and fresh air, to reduce, the spread of disease
  • by the 80’s, sterile environments designed to optimize staff efficiency rather than foster patient healing
  • Roger Ulrich — a view of nature could indeed be healing, and modern hospitals had made a mistake in isolating patients from the natural world
  • evidence based design, patient centered care, evidence based medicine
  • we have an innate affinity for the natural world
  • natural settings and images catch our eye and engage us, cheering us up and taking our minds off our pain and anxiety
  • walks in the woods can boost the activity and number of natural killer cells, a type of white blood cell that helps vanquish viruses and tumors
  • our bodies seem to work best when we stay connected to the natural world
  • some hospitals have been experimenting with circadian lighting, using artificial light that mimics the way that the intensity and color of sunlight change throughout the day
  • in addition to reducing infections, single rooms are quieter, more accommodating to visitors, and better for patient doctor communication
  • ensuring patients are able to remain in the same room from admission through discharge — acuity adaptable rooms
  • woefully little research that tracks the effects of evidence based hospital design over the long term
  • housing quality and urban planning, or lack thereof, remain major contributors to infectious disease in many of the world’s megacities
  • in the U.S. chronic disease has replaced infectious disease as the biggest public health threat
  • we’ve designed movement out of our neighborhoods
  • sprawling neighborhoods tend to discourage walking and make people more reliant on cars
  • adults who live in sprawling areas walk less, weigh more
  • people are more likely to walk and bike when they live in high density, mixed use neighborhoods with high street connectivity and that those who live in walkable neighborhoods have lower blood pressure and are able to better control their diabetes
  • make certain healthy behaviors easier and more appealing
  • we’re more likely to forgo elevators when staircases are visible, convenient, wide, aesthetically pleasing, and architecturally distinct
  • installing signs encouraging stair use and displaying artwork or playing music in stairwells can increase stair climbing as well
  • holistic approach that addresses some of the universal, structural causes of disease — active design
  • walking paths, sports facilities, big open central staircases are all spaces where people can interact, socialize, and build a sense of community
  • non sports gym is a nod to the fact that there are lots of different paths to health and fitness and that it’s important to meet kids where they are
  • when we sit, our bodies undergo a cascade of physiological changes — muscle slacken, fat burn falls, circulation slows, blood sugar rises, insulin production spikes
  • whether standing desks lead to substantial health improvements in the long term is unclear
  • making wholesome food more prominent, accessible, convenient or making junk food more difficult to acquire can nudge our diets in a healthier direction
  • students should ask for chocolate milk and they will drink less of it, if they have to ask
  • fruit presented in a fun, attractive way
  • students consume more apples and carrots when the produce is sitting right on the table rather than placed two meters away
  • make healthy foods easy to see and grab
  • school fundraisers involving junk food could be nixed for a 5K, example
  • built environments and human behavior are complex
  • even carefully considered design decisions can have unexpected effects
  • it’s much harder to prove that these changes have real, long lasting benefits (school redesign)
  • children who have healthier habits tend to do better in school, numerous studies show
  • the physical work environment can affect workers comfort, stress levels, and performance
  • when a job involves frequent disruptions and juggling many different tasks, it might be helpful to provide blue enriched light
  • in workplaces in which creativity is crucial, another lighting scheme could be optimal
  • cool light ideal for performing tasks that require intense concentration, warm light is better for enhancing creativity
  • in general, women tend to be more sensitive to temp changes than men and to prefer warmer workspaces
  • introverts have a hard time with open plan layouts
  • employees almost universally hate them — may make employees physically sick
  • workers like activity based offices and the autonomy that they enable
  • plants can turbocharge mental performance, enhance attention, focus, memory, learning, and productivity
  • standardized test scores are higher at elementary schools surrounded by greenery, students do better when their classrooms look out onto a natural landscape or feature plant filled green walls
  • attention restoration theory — natural settings give the brain a break from the cognitively exhausting tasks
  • nature engenders an effortless kind of engagement, soft fascination, allows the mind to rest
  • face to face communication remains the gold standard
  • proximity is the best way to foster these interactions
  • we desire at least a modicum of privacy in the workplace
  • square offices were more popular than longer, more rectangular ones
  • WeWork found that culture surrounding meetings varies by country — Americans tend to eat at desks, but the Dutch eat together, example
  • a productive worker is not necessarily the same thing as a happy worker
  • fine line between research and surveillance
  • as tech becomes tightly integrated into our buildings, it could give at least some workers more control over their environments and empower them to create spaces that better meet their individual needs
  • failure to remove architectural barriers in existing buildings was itself a form of discrimination, according to the ADA
  • open offices that employees seem to love so much can be a nightmare for people with PTSD, autism
  • traditional medical model of disability has given way to the social model, which says that it’s not using a wheelchair or having autism that’s disabling, it’s living in an environment and a society that doesn’t accommodate these kinds of differences
  • “universal design” — goal is to create spaces, products, and experiences that serve the widest possible range of people, at every age and along the entire spectrum of ability
  • empower people to participate fully in all aspects of society
  • Galluadet, DeafSpace, design features that can make it easier for people to communicate visually
  • Alzheimer care, keep units small and common areas highly visible as residents travel through a building
  • daylight, soundproofed spaces, homelike interiors, adequate privacy
  • good design for autism is just similar to good design
  • learning more about how people with disabilities perceive and respond to their environment, and how to create buildings that enable and empower them, will ultimately help us create spaces that are better for us all
  • prisons provide a good illustration of how much damage the wrong environment can do
  • buildings are literally designed to punish
  • there are more people with serious mental illness in American jails and prisons than in psychiatric hospitals and hospital wards
  • many come out in worse shape than when they went in
  • for most of history, accused criminals were detained only until their actual sentences could be meted out
  • facilities proliferated during the 16th — 18th centuries
  • late 20th century, solitary confinement would make a dramatic comeback
  • late 80’s and 90’s, dozens of supermax security prisons, which confined inmates to their individual cells for nearly 24 hours a day, sprung up in the U.S.
  • number of prisoners held in some form of solitary exploded
  • as many as 100K prisoners in solitary at any time
  • effects of incarceration and isolation, irrational anger, anxiety, intrusive thoughts, oversensitivity to stimuli, confusion, social withdrawal
  • emotional flatness, physical symptoms
  • symptoms occur even in prisoners who are healthy when first sent to solitary, tend to get worse the longer people spend there, and they often ease when solitary confinement ends
  • solitary does its damage by depriving people of much needed sensory stimulation
  • we are info vores, we thrive on new information, we crave variety
  • humans are a social species, innately predisposed to connect with others
  • loneliness and social isolation are associated with elevated levels of stress hormones, high BP, inflammation, altered gene expression, and poor immune functioning
  • if you feel isolated, increased risk for heart disease, age related cognitive decline, array of mental disorders, early death
  • isolation itself can cause neurological and behavioral changes
  • Halden Prison in Norway — no bars, inmates free to wander among the prison’s buildings and common areas
  • nurture and rehabilitate them, preparing them for healthy, productive lives in society upon their release
  • Los Colinas, CA
  • normalization, notion that correctional facilities should look less like impersonal institutions and more like actual homes
  • direct supervision — produces jails that are objectively safer, lower rates of violence and assault, than the classic model of indirect supervision
  • direct supervision lowers levels of tension and stress for prisoners and guards
  • staff are no longer security guards, more like social workers, communicators, conflict resolution, counseling
  • assaults fell by 50%
  • not always an easy sell for politicians, don’t want to be “soft on crime”
  • should send fewer people to prison, treat them better while they are there
  • if you treat people better, they respond better
  • designers of other kinds of residential facilities, from nursing homes to mental hospitals, have begun to embrace the concept of humane design
  • mass incarceration is expensive
  • students who attended class in high quality buildings performed better academically, more confident in their own ability to succeed
  • people who live in neighborhoods that have parks, libraries, restaurants are more likely to socialize with their neighbors and feel less isolated than those who live in less vibrant areas
  • affordability is essential
  • commitment to kindness — design can be a way to be kinder
  • senior care community where scientists are experimenting with integrated health monitoring systems
  • flood of home health data could help city officials track the well being of the population at large and identify areas where certain public health interventions, including active design strategies, might do the most good
  • data analyses and machine learning are rapidly growing more sophisticated, and in a few years, researchers, doctors, insurance companies may be able to pull entirely new insights out of the health data we’re giving up today
  • could widen health disparities between well educated, high income consumers and everyone else
  • constantly monitoring people that are healthy for a grab bag of different diseases can do more harm than good
  • laws that exist don’t go far enough, and they haven’t kept up with the pace of innovation
  • amphibious architecture, instead of fighting against water, we have to learn to live with it
  • we are the ones who do the adaptation
  • flooding is the world’s most common natural hazard
  • resilient buildings can save lives and alleviate human suffering, mitigating the worst effects of the disasters looming on the horizon and helping us bounce back faster
  • Netherlands — cluster of amphibious homes in a flood prone region along the Maas River
  • home can essentially function as a pontoon raft, raising the structure a few feet in the air and attaching foam buoyancy blocks to its underside — happened in Louisiana
  • works with natural cycles of flooding, water becomes your friend
  • water lifts people to safety
  • resilient building can be the difference between a major disaster and a minor one, between a disaster and an inconvenience
  • resilience is context specific, but it does go hand in hand with sustainability
  • passive survivability, creating buildings that remain habitable even in such extreme circumstances
  • construction and operation of buildings is responsible for more than a third of all energy use worldwide and nearly 40 percent of energy related carbon dioxide emissions
  • Khalili, SuperAdobe, spin on a practice known as earthbag construction
  • established CalEarth Institute to construct buildings out of sandbags
  • good solution for disaster relief housing
  • using SuperAdobe to shelter people who were fleeing political conflicts
  • these structures exist in 50 countries
  • design that is fireproof, hurricane proof, flood proof
  • essentially, homes made of dirt
  • sustainability of 3D buildings is a matter of debate
  • where do we go next? natural step is space, Moon, Mars, beyond
  • no matter how big any colonies get, they would have to exist indoors
  • in space the effect of every design decision will be magnified
  • critical regular exposure to daylight is to our wellbeing
  • the day and night cycles of the Moon last roughly 28 days
  • many locations on the moon receive two weeks of constant sunlight followed by two weeks of unending darkness
  • planning space settlements can teach us how to live more thoughtfully and responsibly on our own ailing, overcrowded planet and how to build homes in hostile environments as conditions on Earth deteriorate

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