Are we killing the potential for people to live better?

Are we destroying the potential for people to live better?

When the standards of our living conditions are lowered, we are all affected.

More than 70 % of our lives are spent indoors.

Our mental and physical well being is dependent on the environment we inhabit.

Spaces we live and work in play a huge role in our behaviours.

There is a feedback loop between spaces we occupy, their effect on our state of mind and the lives we create. This infinite loop is delicate. If we are fragile we can quickly turn to a downward spiral with disastrous consequences.

The industrial revolution has brought flux of people into ill-equipped cities.  The main focus was to house as many people as possible and to facilitate the needs of fast-paced production. People were stacked in residential boxes in order for them to be part of a consumer-oriented society.

Knowing how much of the human population lives in the urban areas and the increasing amount of time we spend indoors, we must not ignore the fact that many of our buildings are making us sick.

Sick-building syndrome, the illness that persons get from living or working in a badly designed or poorly constructed building has become a real problem.

Also, seasonal affective disorder symptoms can often be exaggerated by the spaces we occupy.

There is a global health crisis associated with the use of harmful chemicals in our living and working environment. Noise pollution, light pollution and light deprivation can accentuate the contribute to the effects of these chemicals.

We claim to be well into “human-centric”, “people power era” and yet, in most cases, our buildings are designed to suit only “normal” human beings and fulfil only their “basic” human needs.

Our experiences in buildings result either in sensory deprivation or sensory overload.

Have we lost our way?

It is not surprising then, that majority of the population is still misguided and continues to exist within the system of economics and production that consumes the world. Chasing prosperity by aspiring to lead luxury lifestyles, chasing success largely determined by wealth and growth.

But this is futile because our needs are fundamentally qualitative.

But how can we expect a miserably oppressed populace to exercise much care for anything outside its immediate survival and security?

Once the fundamental needs such as suitable homes and security are met, basic human desires are for connection, community, beauty…

If we design spaces where people can experience and enhance their sense of autonomy, competence and relatedness, we can create conditions of success for behaviour change.

Unfortunately, throughout my years in architecture, design and construction, I came to learn that very few architects create healthy buildings.

The majority of architects and designers provide a service for a fee that isolates them from the economic interests of the project.

We devalue our role to the pencil of the developer’s vision.

The creation of our living environment has been highjacked by financial capital whose main focus and the main objective is short term, low risk, high returns.

If we are solely focusing on money, we are destroying all the other potentials.

We are killing the potential for people to live better.

I believe we have a collective responsibility to create a better building environment and enable it for all. Property development space is not just a money-making space, it is a creative space, a space that enables an opportunity for self-expression. What if we shift our focus away from profit to creating and delivering environments that encourage and enable others to express their gifts?

We know that well-designed homes and neighbourhoods make us happier and healthier, encourage us to live in our homes for longer, and create strong communities with biodiversity, sustainability and flexibility built-in.

We need to acknowledge that our inner world and outer world are interdependent.

Our living and working conditions need to support human beings in cultivating their inner conditions. Cultivating our inner conditions through value-driven, positive impact placemaking can deliver the social impact that our world is in desperate need of.

Our social healing is an indispensable part of ecological healing.

How do we create an environment that supports us, helps us to concentrate, helps us to be more productive, more creative? Spaces that support interaction rather than promote isolation. Spaces that motivate, inspire and aid us to reconnect with each other and reconnect with nature?

In the words of Buckminster Fuller – we need to make a collective effort to make the world work for 100% of humanity in the shortest possible time and through spontaneous cooperation, ideally without ecological offence or the disadvantage of anyone.

Suzanne Tate

CEO Studio-To

+44 7816 997128

20th Feb 2022