Spaces and the immune system, productivity

Goals

To have information, studies or other forms of evidence that support the idea that a space that feels nice can have an impact on well being, the immune system, or productivity.

Early Findings

Interior design and stress

  • Because stress can weaken the immune system, most design principles that minimize stress have a positive impact on the immune system.
  • Stress can cause the body to produce an excess amount of epinephrine (adrenaline), which then causes a chemical breakdown resulting in the weakening of the immune system.
  • The impairment of the immune system can in turn make people more vulnerable to various diseases, including, some scientists argue, cancer.
  • Research has also found that there is a strong person-environment relationship. That is, that interior design can have an enduring impact on emotional health, and therefore on the immune system.
  • However, the exact structures that reduce stress may vary from person to person. Research has found that when people are in their preferred environments, stress and anxiety decrease. People have different cultural and environmental perceptions, as well as different cognitive responses and personal preferences.

Office design and the immune system

  • People in physical environments that don't meet their needs hay have certain physiological outcomes, including a negative impact on their immune system.
  • Well-lit spaces with large windows that bring in sunlight also provide (through that sunlight) vitamin D, which is important to the immune system.
  • Studies have found that stress and anxiety levels also decrease when a fish tank is present.
  • Negative office habits that are bad for the immune system can be factored into design. For example, excessive sedentarism can be combated with spatial designs that promote physical movement in the workplace. Making common areas visible, making sure individuals have enough space, and integrating artwork with staircases can facilitate increased movement.
  • Interior Design Program Coordinator Lindsay Tan argued that offices need to be designed to reduce pathogen transmission. She says that many people spend 90% of their time indoors. Exposure to common viruses through contact with door handles and other everyday objects can increase one's immunity. But for more serious or rare disease, such as COVID-19, it is important to use design materials that transmit less effectively.
  • Humans feel more comfortable in spaces that imitate or interact with nature. Hardwood floors, for example, are typically quite relaxing. Hospitals with such floors and large windows are better for patients' health than those that are "Monochromatic bubbles." That is, they are all one color, from floor, to the walls, to the ceiling (often an awful yellow). Old people see less contrast than younger people and such color schemes can increase their stress and be quite dangerous.

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