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Patients in well-designed buildings need less medication, says RIBA

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A new report by the RIBA claims well-designed buildings can cut both the amount of time and medication patients need to recover, reduce vandalism and improve homeowners’ mental health

The publication Good design – it all adds up combines research from the UK and abroad to showcase how good design in housing, education, health, the workplace and public spaces can bring significant ‘social and economic’ benefits.

Launched today by RIBA President Ruth Reed and architecture minister John Penrose, the document is supported by case studies of fifteen highly successful building projects including ORMS’ Skypad Teenage Cancer Trust Unit in Cardiff (pictured above).

‘In stringent times, there is a danger that short-term money-saving decisions will be made on new buildings which result in poor solutions that are effectively false economies, ‘said Reed.

‘Good design is an investment that pays for itself over a building’s lifetime; bad architecture will always cost more; invest now, or pay later.’

Ugly, poorly-designed and ill-considered buildings can, at worst, actually help defeat the core purpose of the building itself

Penrose added: ‘High quality architecture and design make a really important contribution both to society and to the economy, particularly when budgets are tight and value for money is key. Ugly, poorly-designed and ill-considered buildings sink the spirits of those who live and work in them and can, at worst, actually help defeat the core purpose of the building itself.  So this guide provides useful evidence to support the need for high standards in design.  I commend it to the profession and to those councillors and consultants involved in the commissioning process.’

Key findings in the report include:

  • Health - Patients with access to daylight and external views require less medication and recover faster. At ORMS’ Skypad Teenage Cancer Trust Unit in Cardiff, one teenage cancer patient said: “It doesn’t feel like being in hospital. It makes treatment easier as I am not focusing on that”. For medical staff, building efficient, effective, flexible facilities where they have more time to spend caring for patients and advising their families allows them to do their job at their best, reducing stress, fatigue and the chances of making mistakes.
  • Education - After students at Wilkinson Eyre’s Bristol Brunel Academy moved to their new building, vandalism fell by 50 per cent and the number of pupils who said that bullying was an issue for them fell by 23 per cent. (National Foundation for Educational Research, 2008). A 2010 survey by the British Council for School Environments (BCSE) and Teacher Support Network highlighted how the overwhelming majority of teachers (95.8 per cent) agreed that the school environment had an influence on pupil behaviour. At Christ’s College secondary school in Guildford, the senior assistant principal stated “There has been a huge, huge change in the behaviour of the students…we have no graffiti, we have almost zero litter” since the new building opened in 2009.
  • Housing - At Westwood Estate in Peterborough, a survey revealed how the introduction of simple, affordable environmental improvements such as road narrowing and closing off alleyways to deter intruders made a dramatic difference to residents’ mental health and satisfaction with their housing development.
  • Growth and employment - The development of well thought-out urban spaces can revitalise run-down areas, promote business and increase employment; the creation of the Liverpool ONE scheme in 2008 has helped to create over 3,500 new local jobs.
  • Work-places - The right workstation layouts, space allocations, air quality, acoustics and lighting can make the difference between a hard-working office and a less productive one.
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