Forsknings- och affärsutvecklingschefContact Carina
When designing buildings, neighbourhoods, and cities, the focus is often on technological innovation, climate-smart solutions, and the efficient use of materials. The health aspect – that the design of our living environments can actively promote health and wellbeing – sometimes gets lost along the way. But interest is now growing in this complex area.
Research shows that the health of individuals as well as populations is affected by living environments, both the immediate environment of the home and public environments. It has been recognised in psychiatry that the environment affects patients’ wellbeing and recovery, and studies show that, even when it comes to physical illnesses, something as simple as wood-panelled walls in a patient’s room both shortens the convalescence period and reduces the perception of pain.
- “We feel best in a physical environment where we thrive and feel safe,” says Carina Carlman, Research and Business Developer in the Building and Property area at RISE.
Camilla Evensson, Head of the RISE’s Future Care focus area, also stresses the importance of a good living environment:
- “We know, for example, that there’s a link between green spaces and mental wellbeing, and that a lack of daylight can be associated with depression. The links between the design of our living environment and our health were really made clear during the pandemic, as we experienced personal, social, and physical constraints in our living environments, and many people became isolated indoors in their homes.”
Within the built environment, the focus has long been on technological innovation, climate-smart solutions, and the efficient use of resources. Not as much attention has been given to the health aspect, despite it also playing an important role in the creation of a sustainable society.
- “If you feel happy and content in an environment, you will be committed and take responsibility, which is beneficial to both human health and the environment,” says Carlman.
- “At RISE, we can help design an environment that promotes health while providing a more inclusive society,” says Evensson. “Sustainability and resilience also apply at the individual level.”
“Working alongside various operators, RISE can serve as an innovation partner to co-create and develop tomorrow’s sustainable and health-promoting society,”
To achieve this change, both cross-sectoral system transition and service innovation are required, where the continued development of digital technologies is key. Various technical systems already in exist, but they are often isolated. It is important to move from ‘silos’ to a whole where different systems interact.
Carlman underscores that interaction is something of a keyword in this:
- “Designing a good living environment requires interaction among individuals, architects, urban planners and builders, but also businesses, civil society, and the public sector in healthcare and social care. If we can provide attractive living environments that support and promote health and sustainable lifestyles, the prerequisites are in place for greater wellbeing and quality of life.”
RISE is driving this development, including by taking the initiative to establish system demonstrators to build, test and evaluate various solutions in collaboration with trade and industry and the public sector.
One large-scale example is RISE’s involvement in the development of two new neighbourhoods: Sickla in Nacka and Valparaiso in Stockholm, where the focus is on creating attractive and sustainable neighbourhoods that are good both for people and the environment. The projects will be supported with research, and future solutions will be developed on a scientific basis and in broad collaborations.
- “Working alongside various operators, RISE can serve as an innovation partner to co-create and develop tomorrow’s sustainable and health-promoting society,” says Carlman. “By leaning on science and research, we can show what makes a difference – for real – and, in collaboration with different operators, we can advance society and accelerate transition.”
In addition to the link between the design of the physical environment and our wellbeing, there is also clear correlation between more measurable parameters, such as thermal comfort, air quality, sound, light, humidity and health.
- “At high relative humidity, there is a risk of condensation and mould, which can lead to asthma, as well as to more diffuse problems that cannot be diagnosed as easily, such as fatigue and respiratory distress,” says Kristina Mjörnell, Head of the Sustainable Cities and Communities business and innovation area at RISE. “Congestion increases the risk of high humidity and high levels of carbon dioxide, which can also affect health and wellbeing.”
When remodelling and rebuilding, it is important to find pragmatic solutions and concepts that solve this problem. However, a follow-on problem is that several regulations clash with one another and hinder smart solutions. Mjörnell stresses that RISE can make an important effort in this area as well:
- “Today’s buildings will stand for another 100 years and must be adapted to new needs, such as increased rates of elderly care in the home. But a major hindrance is that regulations pertaining to energy use, damp-proofing, fire, accessibility, sound, and daylight, for example, sometimes have conflicting requirements making them difficult to fulfil, especially at a reasonable cost and with a low carbon footprint. RISE can help by identifying obstacles, conducting research to find optimal solutions, and evaluating different concepts, as well as by focusing on the regulatory issues.
- “It’s important to point out that RISE is an independent party with considerable breadth and a neutral perspective,” says Evensson. “In addition, we are able to certify services, processes, and working methods. And this is a stamp of quality.”