Sunday, June 13

Covid-19 forces us to think about homes that promote physical and mental health




The pandemic in which we continue to be immersed has not only led us to spend more time at home than imagined, but has also led many Spaniards to rethink how is their ideal home or where they want have it.

World Health Organization (WHO)
defines healthy homes as those that are “residential spaces that promote the health of their occupants, a refuge that supports a state of physical, mental and social well-being.”

The configuration of a home can influence between 5 and 20% on the mental health of the people who inhabit it. “We really have to be more aware of how the space in which we live and the city or town we inhabit affects our global health,” says the architect. José Seguí, an expert in urban planning.

What factors define a healthy home?

According to Ricard Santamaría, director of H.A.U.S. Healthy Buildings, «Many of the endocrine disruptors that can end up affecting the endocrine and immune system, dermatological and ophthalmological problems, the appearance of pathologies of the system respiratory and cardiovascular or the proliferation of some types of cancer and cutting pathologies neuro-psychotic they have their origin in elements or environmental factors of the interior spaces ».

Hence, the significant current demand for houses with outdoor spaces, natural light, good acoustic shielding conditions between neighbors, visual proximity to plant elements or good ventilation.

But not only in the mental but also in the physical that go together.

For Ramiro Higuera one of the partners of the architecture studio CooperActiva specialized in housing, «home confinement has meant an enhancement of the collective residential space (the house) evidencing its deficiencies and forcing, through them, a new redefinition of its benefits in order to provide the necessary improvements that respond to the new concerns of its inhabitants.

The configuration of a home can influence between 5 and 20% on the mental health of the people who inhabit it

This reflection has also been joined by some national institutions that have materialized them in new regulations.

Basque government
, announced in July 2020 that it was going to modify the housing regulations so that all the housing units that were built in the Basque Country had to favor the construction of terraces and balconies in the new buildings. “The intermediate spaces of collective housing, like porches, terraces must be rescued and the spaces housing will increase their surface to give rise to teleworking requiring one of increased ventilation and lighting and new storage areas.

The outer spaces are recovered.
The outer spaces are recovered. – Jorge Allende

In the same direction, the portals and lobbies will become “filter” elements where the hygienic and health conditions of their users will be guaranteed “, adds one of the founders of CooperActiva, which has developed numerous projects together with the Municipal Company of the Basque Country.

«In this sense, this crisis will transform housing traditionally conceived as a place to live, protection and isolation, into a hybrid place where work takes place making possible, at the same time favoring relationships with close neighbors” Add Ramiro Higuera.

The age and gender of the inhabitants also have a different influence on the configuration of interior spaces if they seek to increase their well-being and health. Thus, another of the contributions of the Basque decree is the delayering of housing, breaking traditional configuration separated and compartmentalized, which was reflected, for example, in the layout of a large master bedroom and one or more secondary ones, much smaller in the living room.

The room is intended to be not just a place to to sleep, but a multifunctional space, to study, work, play, socialize or even do sport or yoga, aspects that directly improve mental health and therefore physical.

The house should be adapted to the uses and needs and not the other way around

Another way to improve our mental health is to add the perspective of gender to the design of buildings and homes, avoiding nooks and crannies that create insecurity, fear and stress in portals and common areas, and integrating the living-dining-kitchen space to the maximum, so that household chores are visible and can be shared by the whole family unit.

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