The preamble to the constitutional text of the World Health Organization (WHO) establishes that “health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity”.
The right to health includes health measures, but also social measures, which connects it, in an inseparable way, with the right to decent and adequate housing and also with the right to enjoy a healthy, safe and sustainable urban environment for all. economic, social and environmental levels. 80% of the social determinants that influence health are outside the health system. They depend on other factors, such as the features of our homes and the way our towns and cities are planned and configured.
On the occasion of World Architecture Day, which is celebrated on October 3, architects want to underline the value of architectural design and urban planning to guarantee the well-being of people and improve their individual and collective quality of life, transforming social realities and reducing inequality. Paraphrasing the statement of the International Union of Architects (UIA), “good architecture protects, develops and restores environmental, human and animal health against the appearance of diseases and strengthens the connection between the built environment and the natural environment”.
If, before the Covid19 pandemic, we already spent 80% of the time in closed spaces, the confinement caused by the coronavirus magnified it and revealed to all of us the importance of the places we inhabit in our physical and mental health. The insulation of the interiors, accessibility, the dimensions of the home, the windows, the existence or not of terraces, noise, the flexibility and functionality of the spaces… All this influences the health of the home and, by extension, on people’s health, but so does our immediate environment. The design of streets and avenues, their accessibility and also their urban furniture, the existence or not of green areas and sports and cultural facilities, as well as sustainable urban mobility are aspects linked to the structure of our urban environments that condition and, in some cases, determine our health.
For this reason, on this upcoming World Architecture Day, we emphasize the need for the rehabilitation of homes and buildings and the regeneration of neighborhoods charged to European funds Next Generation It is undertaken from a comprehensive and broad perspective so that the aid contributes to promoting the profound transformation that our building stock requires and benefits the greatest number of people.
The undeniable effects of climate change and the energy crisis that Russia’s war against Ukraine has caused in Europe make it essential to reduce polluting emissions generated by our building stock, responsible for 36% of greenhouse gases, and dependence energetic. But, together with the decrease in demand and energy consumption, we must not forget the improvement of the accessibility of our buildings and our neighborhoods with interventions that result in the well-being and health of people and that preserve the future of the planet and the singularities of our towns and buildings because their idiosyncrasies form an inseparable part of our collective identity. European funds have concentrated the resources of an entire generation and it is necessary to act with ambition, betting on the regeneration of our neighborhoods and comprehensive renovations that allow us to leave buildings ready for at least two generations.
In this sense, it is the responsibility of all the agents involved in the design, planning and management of our towns, cities and territories to integrate the health factor, and to do so in a transversal way that rebalances the relationship between the urban and rural worlds and preserve the biodiversity of the planet. The way we plan and build our urban environments defines our quality of life. It affects not only the quality of our living spaces. It influences the forms of mobility and, consequently, the air we breathe, the water we drink and access to food, education, health services, employment and culture.
The challenges that we face as a society are enormous, complex and require a collective effort of professionals, Public Administrations and private initiative to plan and build that better future to which we all aspire and to which we architects want to contribute, actively, with all our technical and humanistic knowledge to move towards a healthier, fairer and more sustainable society without giving up beauty, as prescribed by the Davos Declaration, the New European Bauhaus and the Architecture Quality Law.
Architecture with capital letters guarantees the well-being of people and provides the emotion that gives meaning to existence.