The rise of brain science guided design

There is now scientific proof that shows that our surroundings and the environments we inhabit have a direct impact upon our health and well being. Science has shown us that our environment can change and control the genes that are responsible for defining the structure of the brain. So if our environment can be changed then so can those very same genes and as a consequence, the structure of the brain.

Architects in Kent, just like all over the world are now looking to neuroscience to help them better understand the links between how buildings are designed and the subsequent impact such architectural design features have on the brain. This practical concept is fast developing, particularly within the United States. The New School of Architecture and Design in San Diego is the first institution in the country that is offering neuroscience courses to students studying architecture. Others are likely to follow.

The importance of design on the brain

Human environments consist of numerous elements from open spaces to the confines of a narrow city street. But it is buildings that feature heavily in our everyday lives including schools, hospitals and community centres. Considering the amount of time spent in such areas demonstrates that there is a definite need to think carefully about their design, now that science has shown the links between the brain, well being and environment.

There are already a number of examples that highlight how design with the help of neuroscience is happening in practice, known as Smart Buildings. The Corona del Mar Middle School campus in Newport Beach, California is one such Smart Building and has been designed with neuroscience in mind. Features include floor to ceiling glass panels, staggered edges, plants and solatubes. These features have been incorporated into the architectural design of the building due to the proof science has brought to the long held intuitive notion that environment affects our well being.

Can buildings really improve our health?

In a school setting, for example, promoting a sense of positivity and well being can help students to learn much more effectively. Light, for example, is an important part of the design of a Smart Building. If we look at the Corona del Mar school, the installation of the floor to ceiling glass panels allows natural light to the flood the space.

Eve Edelstein, president of the firm Innovative Design Science, that teaches the aforementioned course in San Diego, states that natural light and visual access to the sky, trees and landscapes such as the vistas provided by the glass panels, stimulate positive brain function which directly helps a student's ability to learn effectively. The same principles can be applied to all new buildings designed by educational architects to contribute to human health and well being.