Assessing the Health Impact of Buildings

by / Friday, 08 March 2013 / Published in iCORE, Industry Trends


Can a change in land-use planning and design combat the environmental conditions that contribute to ailments such as heart disease and obesity?

According to an article in the New York Times, buildings that encourage physical activity and sustainability play a fundamental role in improving residents’ quality of life.

Assessing the health impact of a building, a common practice for some time in Europe, is gaining traction in the US.   Designers are using a health impact assessment to evaluate key sustainability and wellness factors.  The overarching goal of these tools is to help designers create vibrant, healthy communities and ultimately reduce health care costs.

Small changes as simple as providing natural light for the staircases or putting the stairs in a central location are having a big impact on the health of residents.

A prime example of the connection between health and design comes from a nine-year affordable housing project in Seattle.   Erin Christensen, an associate principal at Mithun, states that “the community suffered from a high rate of asthma, and working with the Seattle Housing Authority and others, Mithun called on medical research to create about 60 “Breathe Easy Homes.” The homes feature hard floors instead of carpeting, high efficiency air filters and low-allergen landscaping, among other elements aimed at reducing asthma triggers.”

Residents of the Breathe Easy Homes have experienced a 67% reduction in health care visits and a 61% increase in symptom-free days.

With employees spending more and more hours at the office, their work spaces have a tremendous impact on their health and wellbeing.  It stands to reason that we can apply these same principals and health assessments to design work spaces that encourage healthier, more vibrant workforces.

If you’re interested in exploring opportunities to use your real estate to improve employee health and wellbeing, contact us at