Is It Evidence Based Design or Feng Shui?


“First we shape our buildings, then they shape us”
[Winston Churchill, 1943]

Churchill’s words foretold our growing awareness of neuroplasticity, current innovations in medical facility design, Evidence Based Design (EBD), our appreciation of the Art of Placement (Feng Shui) and, perhaps the puzzle of the State of Illinois Governor’s offices and the criminal convictions of five elected governors…! Could there be a historical design flaw that brings out the governor’s worst qualities?

The architecture and design of our homes, offices, workplaces, schools, and institutions shape us moment to moment. Designed to support a fractured world-view, many life spaces force us to become adept at breaking our vital connections to Nature, interfere with our mind, body, and spirit continuum and ignore our intrinsic and extrinsic needs for living harmoniously.

This break is baked into the design of most of our built environments; the health and environmental costs of these designs are staggering.

Helmut Leder reported in Scientific American Mind on neuroscientists Moshe Bar and Naital Neta’s observation that sharp-edged forms activate a fear response in our amygdala, our brain’s emotional center. In the same article, Leder cites a study that reveals the progression and satisfaction of our interaction with new things and environments. When introducing a new object our visual response is dominant and immediate, after 30 days how the new object feels to our touch moves to primary importance and after a year visual perception, touch and sound are equally valued. That explains a few things!

Building and space design can elicit potent biological stress responses that diminish our health and our ability to act in what gamers call “blissful productivity”.

Finely tuned strategies for team building, creativity and productivity that fail will achieve better results with a corresponding restorative environmental design plan. App supported healthy lifestyle routines that don’t give us the results we seek may have an environmental block. Restorative environments merge all elements of sustainable design and applied neuroscience to create places of enduring health, well-being and happiness.

Your Checklist for Restorative Design Evidence:
1. I feel inspired in this space.
2. My heart is open and receptive in this place.
3. My spirit is elevated.
4. I feel a restorative connection with Nature in this space.
5. I feel connection to our global community in this space
6. I am happy here.
7. The sensory design elements of sight, touch, sound, and scent in this life space are balanced and energizing.

Imagine a world where all design is restorative.

Some buildings and environments bring out the worst in people. When “waste” in any of its forms: energy, resources, time, etc. is baked into the building design we will not function or feel well. The concept of a “sick building” has been around for decades and now we are beginning to realize that beyond the material outgassing there are additional measures for buildings and our health.

Restorative design in our workplaces and living spaces is crucial as a preventative health care initiative. EBD is based on scientific research, Feng Shui is anchored in 5,000 years of anecdotal evidence; the goals of these disciplines are balance, harmony and well-being.

We are limited only by our imagination and willingness to live in a world where “everything matters”.

References:EBD combined with the sustainability principles of LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) is producing new medical facilities that are “world-class” healing environments.

Research published in Informe Design shows that a pattern of biological stress has an environmental component.

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