Human and Environmental Health at the Center of Architecture and Design


Design of the workplace must be practiced as an interdisciplinary and integrative process set within the context of human and planetary health.

The interest in healthy lifestyles and sustainable ways of living and working is not limited to Millennial workers with their “start-up” perspective and admiration of superstar companies like Google, Facebook and Apple. As one writer in Forbes magazine pointed out, “... Baby Boomers who are aging are equally invested in a healthy lifestyle, healthy communities and a healthy planet, but perhaps Millennials depart in the expectation that the places that they work will embody those ideals and support those goals. It is not simply a matter of catering to a younger demographic, but of understanding their world view, appreciating their point of view and making the most of their unique abilities—specifically their exceptional ability to learn, create and work effectively both as teams and individuals.”

And after all, if people are a primary asset, then it only makes sense to ensure that workers are cared for and prospering. If we take significant steps to promote physical and psychological health and well-being among every generation at work, we can begin to reduce medical costs, improve productivity and performance, net happier and more engaged workers and ultimately realize greater economic value.

"Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being, and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity." - ​World ​Health ​Organization, 1948

Our ability to create a healthy workplace, along with healthy neighborhoods and communities depends on our ability to bring our human systems— social, economic, cultural—into harmony with natural systems. It depends on continuing to question, research and create new knowledge about built environments that promote human physical and mental well-being.

Design of the workplace must be practiced as an interdisciplinary and integrative process set within the context of human and planetary health. There is an enormous opportunity here for sustainable design and architecture to grow beyond preventing environmental degradation to become truly restorative, to not only alleviate the damaging effects of work but to make work a catalyst for health.

The potential is there. The issue is not technical, it is ethical. Our workplaces can enable the physical and mental vitality that’s needed to learn, create and innovate. Even more, design can help create places where work is a richer experience, one that embraces the fullness of our nature as social, curious and inventive beings.

How do we inspire a new generation and tap into the passion for meaningful work, as well as an innate ability to collaborate, to learn and ultimately to lead? Company leadership, HR, IT, finance, facilities management and design must come together to create a positive culture, varied workspaces and a healthy work environment. Any form of standing still—physical, mental, metaphorical— is unhealthy