Dominic Nolan, E-Commerce Marketing Officer at Nolan.UDA explains the role of various design elements in creating healthy living environments.
The term ‘Sick Building Syndrome’ (SBS) is often used in reference to the impact of structural design on the general wellbeing of the occupants of a building. SBS caused by structural factors such as ventilation and heating systems can affect individual performance in corporate, hospitality and education environments. Even design elements such as acoustics and visual aesthetics play an important role in creating a healthy learning environment.
There are three key areas of focus – acoustics, colour and comfort – that contribute to a high quality learning environment by supporting student development and effective teaching.
Well known acoustic consultant and Chairman of The Sound Agency, Julian Treasure shares his insights on the impact of sound on the living environment.
Treasure explains that ambience and atmosphere can affect a person on a physiological, psychological, behavioural and cognitive level. Sound subconsciously impacts general mood and mental wellbeing without the individual even realising it.
Secondly, acoustic wellbeing is influenced by the surrounding interference. Communication is based upon the transmission, receiving and interpretation of a frequency that occurs when one speaks; however interpretation is largely dependent on the surrounding environment. Reverberation occurs when sound is deflected across surfaces (particularly hard surfaces) and gradually distorts and decays. In an education situation, this means children sitting at the back of a classroom that has a lot of hard surfaces will potentially have a harder time understanding the teacher.
Poor acoustics can also trigger the Lombard effect where speakers increase their volume when speaking in loud environments so that they are heard by the audience. However, this only leads to a louder environment as students try to talk over each other.
Similarly, colour has the ability to heal the Sick Building Syndrome. Seen as a potential remedy for some of the symptoms of SBS, a splash of colour can change the dynamics of a learning environment. Colour affects individuals at both sensory and repository levels. For example, light blue is proven to reduce eye strain, promote a calming atmosphere, trigger subconscious thoughts of the outdoors, and enhance concentration.
Flooring is another aspect of a potential SBS situation in indoor and outdoor education areas with a ripped or frayed carpet not only creating occupational health and safety issues, but also potentially impacting on the student’s subconscious wellbeing as well as their general school pride. School project briefs, therefore, require flooring solutions to be high quality and durable to provide both safety as well as aesthetics.
There is no single solution for the Sick Building Syndrome. However, SBS can be addressed through a number of simple design remedies. Acoustics and the flooring of a classroom can, for instance, promote a vibrant and inclusive learning environment that helps students achieve their full potential.