What Civic Spirit Means to Us: Design + Wellbeing Committee
From our personal and professional lives, we have the opportunity and civic responsibility to bring health and wellness to the forefront of design for the built environment.
Civic spirit means engaging in person-to-person dialogue and the greater public conversation to learn from the challenges and strategies that have defined this recent period of uncertainty. Part of civic spirit is appreciating the moment, especially in troubling times, to enrich and better our society.
This time is rich for learning. On a small scale, leaders must have their eyes, ears and all of their senses wide open to understand challenges, reactions, behavior, and even the quick-fix solutions that we are all using to cope in this new environment.
We have learned from our own practices at home. We find that we are focusing on our basic needs (good lighting, fresh air, clean water, connection to nature, etc.) to promote our own health and that of our families and communities. We can't fully address all of these needs based on our home environment. But we are making thoughtful decisions that should be catalogued and prioritized in our civic design discussion.
On a larger scale, civic responsibility means connecting with knowledge communities and the design professions to further dialogue and ensure that health and wellbeing are the focus of our duty to society. Two knowledge communities that we would highlight are our AIA DC Design and Wellbeing Committee and the International WELL Building Institute (IWBI).
The AIA DC Design and Wellbeing Committee brings together industry knowledge and perspectives from a diverse group of design and wellness-related professionals. Our engagement in workshops and other thought exercises advances the importance of wellness and the role that design can play in fostering wellness.
IWBI is grounded in the tenet that the built environment has a responsibility to positively impact occupant health.
IWBI focuses on our whole-body health (respiratory, nervous, musculo-skeletal, and other systems) using 7 wellness concepts - Air, Water, Nourishment, Light, Fitness, Comfort and Mind. IWBI is honing in on those concepts of human comfort and health through the built environment by engaging with public health and design professionals. In addition to following their lead, we need to bring these concepts to the forefront of design and cultural exploration in the built environment. As professionals, we have obligations to social betterment and using the lessons we learn from the broader industry to promote wellness.
IWBI developed standards for most of our civic needs: office buildings, multi-family residential buildings, educational facilities, retail, and commercial kitchens. We are convinced that this mapping approach can help our community in these 2 immediate ways:
1. trying to identify some of the 100+ features that could be transposed to our homes and become easy adjustments that help us navigate better our indefinite confinement.
2. preparing for the post-confinement stage by reflecting on guidelines or tools to ensure that our civic buildings are healthy environments when they reopen and how we, as occupants, can be part of the mission.
There will continue to be crises after this virus passes (including climate, political, and economic). Bringing the basic wellness needs to the forefront of our design thinking is paramount to acting as stewards of a healthy built environment.
Thank you for your leadership in this cause and for your consideration of our committee.
Aron Beninghove & Valerie Navarre
Co-chairs of the AIA DC Design & Wellbeing Committee
April 2, 2020