How do the buildings in which we work affect us emotionally and physically?

Posted on December 2, 2014

There are three main systems in the body that are involved in maintaining health: the nervous system, the hormone (endocrine) system and the immune system. These are in a triangle of communication, each interacting with the others. Anything that affects one system can affect the other two.

"The body has all of these failsafe systems in place to keep itself healthy," says Michael Lumpkin, Professor of Biochemistry and Cellular and Molecular Biology at Georgetown University, USA. "All you really need to do is provide a healing environment and the body will typically do the rest."

Lumpkin explains the effect of healing environments through their calming effect on the central nervous system: "Part of what you're doing is providing some sensory deprivation that you probably need… You're cutting down on all these excitatory and stressful stimuli… Noise, bright, threatening colours like bright red and orange, noxious odours… any negative sensory input will trigger the stress hormone systems."

Swapping a stressful environment for soothing natural colours, landscapes and sounds helps to calm the nervous system.

Chronic stress can happen at any age. People whose everyday jobs keep piling on the pressure are especially vulnerable, people such as combat soldiers, firefighters, air traffic controllers, police officers and emergency room staff.

But Lumpkin points out that chronically stressful environments can happen anywhere, including in any open-plan office: "You have no privacy, you have no time to just sit and contemplate a problem. You're constantly being bombarded by your colleagues and their issues," he says. "I do think buildings and offices can be redesigned to improve the quality of life and health of the workers."

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Category(s):Workplace Issues

Source material from Mosaic Science