How does interior design affect health?

Jennifer Webb, associate professor of interior design in the Fay Jones School of Architecture, answers:

Have you ever thought about how much time you spend in interior environments? According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the average United States citizen spends 87 percent of his or her time indoors. Interior designers determine the sizes of indoor spaces and their arrangement, as well as the selection of all the things with which we fill spaces, such as surface materials, furnishings and accessories. These decisions directly impact human health and wellbeing, and here are several things to consider.

A qualified interior designer can help maintain good indoor air quality. For example, volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are found in all types of interior finishes and products, such as paint and upholstery cushions. Over time, these VOCs are emitted as gases and can cause nose and eye irritation as well as serious respiratory illness. In a work environment, isolating equipment such as printers and photocopiers can also improve indoor air quality by reducing the dust associated with paper.

Interior designers allocate space for circulation and arrange both exits and furnishings to make sure that individuals across the range of human functioning can access all parts of a space and conduct desired activities. Additionally, these elements ensure that people can safely exit a building during an emergency. The arrangement of space also provides access to natural light and views for the users. Visual access to the outdoors improves both task performance and attitude.

Interior designers can influence our emotional health and brain functioning. Certain colors can make us feel warm or cold or even chatty! Some colors have been lianked to aggression. Different pattern scales for wall-covering and carpet have been shown to influence children’s play behaviors, and the scale and enclosure of study spaces has been shown to influence the task performance of children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. There are many ways in which our interior environment contributes to our health and wellbeing, and interior designers make many of these critical decisions.

Photo by Russell Cothren

 

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