“We shape our buildings, thereafter they shape us.” -Winston Churchill

From our humblest homes to our strongest skyscrapers, the places where we spend our time have a profound impact on our lives and well-being. With this recognition, the healthcare and public health communities have recently directed their attention towards the creation of built spaces that promote human health and well-being. This effort seeks to integrate healthy behaviors into our daily lives, improve population health, and increase access to health care resources.

With funding from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and interdisciplinary team of researchers from the University of Virginia School of Medicine and the U.S. Green Building Council is working to create new market interventions that will influence the investment and designs of the built environment sector. By reapplying the principles of market transformation used successfully by the green building industry, the team will recommend opportunities for consideration of health and well-being outcomes in real estate development.

The team will focus efforts on areas of the industry where barriers to health and well-being considerations exist. Where currently data related to health costs and benefits is largely invisible or undervalued, tools will be developed to make these impacts quantifiable. In project teams of developers, planners, and architects where a lack of metrics and practice-relevant strategies prevents the application of public health evidence in design, accessible benchmarks will be created to promote integration of health principles into practice. Project level interventions will include:

Within the offices of real estate portfolio managers where property is unable to be ranked by functionality of health-promoting attributes, a focused analytical process will be shaped to target investment in buildings that reap dividends of well-being and prosperity.

Enabled by these new tools, the research team hopes to empower a new generation of real estate developers, designers, and portfolio managers to advocate, create, and participate in a renaissance of our built environment. With informed design and strategic investment, the places we build may provide more than shelter: they can stimulate a state of health and well-being in the people and communities in which they are grounded.