Munday and Cramer

Designing Buildings to Improve Mental Health

Designing buildings with mental health in mind is important, no matter what kind of industry the building is for. According to mental health charity, Mind, a quarter of all adults experience a mental health problem every year in the UK. A sixth of UK adults will experience a common mental health problem, such as anxiety or depression, in any given week. These statistics show that mental disorders are one of the biggest health problems in the UK and unfortunately the statistics aren’t getting any better. Anything we can do to help improve people’s mental health is one of the key influences to any of our architectural designs here at Munday + Cramer.

Designing buildings for offices

Implementing every single mental-health-boosting initiative isn’t going to be feasible in most cases, whether for financial reasons, space limitations or a number of other factors. However, investing in architecture for mental health has many benefits, both for employees and businesses as a whole. For starters, focusing on improving mental health can help a business reduce staff turnover, which in turn reduces recruitment costs. Studies show that good mental health also leads to a more productive workforce, so the business will benefit at the same time as employees do. It’s a win-win situation! Research by Deloitte estimates that poor mental health is costing UK businesses between £42-£45 billion every year. This equates to around £1,400 for each working adult in the UK. Deloitte research also notes that for each £1 spent on mental health, businesses get £5 back, which isn’t bad as far as return on investment goes!

Designing buildings for education

Schools and other educational facilities can also benefit hugely from mental health improvements. Shawmind, a mental health charity that successfully campaigned for mental health to be taught in schools, explain that mental health challenges can make it difficult to achieve high grades, form friendships and make good choices that could affect the rest of their lives. Whilst academic achievement is a big focus in schools, it is also important to ensure students’ wellbeing.

Mental health issues can make it hard to concentrate in class, cause a lack of optimism and make it difficult to sleep. Students with poor mental health are also more likely to have behavioural issues or skip classes. All of these combine to make learning more difficult and grades will dip as a result.

Along with educating teachers about mental health, teaching students about it and reducing the stigma attached to it, you can also design classrooms and buildings to help improve student and staff wellbeing and mental health.

Designing buildings for healthcare

Hospitals can be hectic, busy places, especially over the past couple of years, when health services have been overwhelmed in the UK. Bearing in mind that no one really wants to be there in the first place, hospitals and other healthcare buildings can be quite depressing. Designing these spaces with mental health in mind is crucial for helping people recover. Research shows that mental and physical health are intrinsically linked. In fact, even wounds can heal about 40% faster if a patient is less stressed!

Should anyone unfortunately end up having to spend time in a mental health institution, this could indicate severe health issues. It is vital that buildings implement as many mental health improving designs as possible to enable recovery. With a range of different types of mental health problems, it can be hard to create a space that suits everyone’s requirements. Working with an architectural design company like Munday + Cramer can help make the most of the available space to help as many people as possible.

How to design buildings to improve mental health

So, there are benefits for many sectors, but how can you actually design a building to promote good mental health and wellbeing? Luckily, most design tips can be applied across multiple sectors. For example, one major influence on mental health is the amount of natural light that can get into the building. In other words, windows are key. This doesn’t mean that we should just be making glass buildings of course, but designs should make an effort to include areas that can get a lot of natural light, such as conservatories, atriums and even outdoor spaces like a courtyard or gardens.

Another factor that can affect mental health is the use of space. Brain scans have shown that small, cluttered rooms increase levels of stress. Utilising larger spaces, creating bright rooms with high ceilings, can help to reduce stress. This is ideal if you can implement it in classrooms or office spaces, but if not then breakout rooms, lunch halls and other large rooms can all help. Giving people somewhere they can get away to for a bit to clear their heads, move about and relax more will benefit their mental health for the rest of the day.

Whilst it is important to have these spaces, it won’t work for every personality type. Some people prefer a small, quiet room to relax in. Getting away from crowds and being a bit more isolated can help some individuals to calm down and destress. Accommodating for as many people as possible in the space available is something our architects always aim to achieve.

Finally, architects will also need to account for other things outside of “design” that can help improve mental health. This includes temperature control, water, air, lighting, acoustics, materials and much more.

Contact Us

Munday + Cramer have an extensive history designing buildings for a variety of sectors, always keeping in mind a lot more than just aesthetic design. We focus on designing spaces appropriate for the end users, keeping in mind mental health, sustainability and the carbon footprint of projects and the potential carbon emissions of the final building envelope. There’s a lot more to building design than just making something pretty, although we do that too!

For more information on how the team here at Munday + Cramer can help in this process, or if you would like to find out more about our building surveying services, operating in Essex, London, Kent, Norfolk and Suffolk, then get in touch! Contact Munday + Cramer today on 01245 326 200.