23 January, 2023

Building healthy buildings and cities is not a luxury for the future, is a must for today

By Arturo Saenz

Since the eighties, the World Health Organization WHO began to report the existence of a close relationship between the appearance of chronic diseases and people's workplaces. That is to say, many complaints of diseases of the respiratory system began to be documented, heart and skin in people who spent a lot of time in specific buildings. From here was born what is known today as the Sick Building Syndrome.

And it is true, statistically we passed the 90% of our time in closed places, either in our offices or homes, and when we add that we breathe 15,000 liters of air in a day and that the quality of the indoor air is of 4 a 5 times worse than abroad, thousands of questions begin to arise. It is already known that low air quality is attributed 7 million premature deaths in a year and yes, It is important, but it is not only the low quality of the air that causes health problems.

The statistical numbers of our health in Panama, They speak of an upward trend in cases of Diabetes as well as medical problems due to fatty acids and the main causes of death are still heart problems. The latter are closely related to poor nutrition and sedentary lifestyle. Definitely, something we are not doing right.

Due to the situation described above, is that the concept of well-being emerged a few decades ago (“wellness”) defined as the active search for activities, options and lifestyles that lead us to a complete state of health (physical or mental). It is thinking about health prevention and at the same time strengthening our body and mind. So, there are two issues: the sustainability of the planet's natural resources and the well-being of human beings. Two themes that are connected and that the time that we are living has made us know.

There are many ways to develop or encourage a lifestyle with well-being: tourism, sport, nutrition, avoiding processed foods, and stress management through contact with nature, among others. The one that is attributed with great responsibility to real estate developers, office building managers, institutions, schools and the like, It is the well-being generated through the physical structures that correspond to the built environments both interior and exterior.

In the midst of all the scientific studies and statistical data that began to generate trends, COVID-19 comes to us to reconfirm the need for healthy buildings and cities that promote changes in habits in favor of good health and prevention.

The most interesting thing is that this situation has happened before, that is to say, the concept that built environments influence our well-being is not new. In the last two centuries, urban planning, infrastructure and building design have had to adapt to control the epidemics that have accompanied high-density places since the Industrial Revolution. Many infectious diseases such as cholera, The tuberculosis, yellow fever came to be controlled through changes in the design of buildings and environments in general and not exclusively with medicine. Some examples such as the creation of aqueducts, underground sanitary systems and building withdrawals to improve ventilation of fresh air and light, that today are good engineering and planning practices, arose motivated to control epidemics.

The challenges that COVID-19 brings us are interesting. It is forecast that by mid- 2021 questions from residents or visitors to any building will be: Am i in a healthy building? What are the maintenance and cleaning policies? Is this office certified with good practices? How can I protect my family? How do I get healthier and how do I boost my immune system? The place where i live, it generates well-being?

Understand the positive or negative impacts that air has, Water, the light, The nutrition, the "fitness", peace of mind, comfort and community in the eleven systems of the human body will be necessary.

It will not be a luxury to build healthy buildings and cities for tomorrow, is a must for today. [email protected]

Arturo Saenz, CEO de Synchro Projects and Solutions.