Panel 4
    Design for Health

    Healthy living takes place in healthy environments, and architects can help improve public health through careful planning, building and consideration. Anticipating and accomodating the need for healthier places to live is one of the ways to achieve a more sustainable future.

    Panel 4: Design for Health
    Panel 4: Design for Health

    Panel Chairs: Arif Hasan and Christian Benimana

    Design for HEALTH

    Architecture and health are inseparable. The links between architecture and individual health, healthy communities, physical health and mental health are clear. Buildings have to be designed to create comfort in the home and the workplace and human settlements have to be planned for providing public space for healthy living, sports, recreation, and culture. Better drainage and sewage disposal are essential for public health and buildings housing health facilities need to be more people friendly and in locations that can reduce inequities.

    Major health crises today exist in informal settlements in the Global South and their number, along with evictions of the poor from their homes, is increasing on a yearly basis. Architects from all over the world are involved in upgrading these settlements and creating healthier living conditions in the process. Research and statistics show that these settlements will be the worst affected by climate change because for the most part they are in ecologically dangerous zones.

    The COVID-19 epidemic has also affected these settlements more than elite or middle-class settlements because of their high densities and the absence of open spaces in them. The absence of security of tenure creates mental stress and they have a high rate of depression and an absence of upward mobility which their locations on the city fringe increases.

    Many academic institutions have courses related to the upgrading of these settlements but job opportunities for this type of work are limited. There are also serious issues related to accessibility for the poor to land and housing finance and there is a need to make zoning regulations which are anti-street, anti-pedestrian, and anti-mixed land-use more people friendly so as to improve mental and physical health

    Sub-panels for Design for Health


    The environment of most cities is the product of their building bylaws and zoning regulations. For the most part these regulations are anti-street, anti-pedestrian, and anti-mixed land-use and hence not people-friendly. They do not also take into consideration larger ecological factors in the absence of legal and implementable regional plans. Their subservience to commercial interests must be regulated if healthier cities are to be built and natural environments protected.


    Almost 50% of the urban population of the world lives in informal settlements which are un-serviced or semi-serviced resulting in the worst health conditions on the globe. There are also constant evictions from these settlements and housing in them is of poor design and construction quality. The owners require advice on light, air, and insulation to prevent disease and education of local technicians to build well and at affordable rates. Since most homes in informal settlements are built incrementally an understanding of the health related requirements of incremental growth need to be researched and applied.


    Quality and quantity of water both for elite and poor settlements is required. Low affordability and lack of access to mineral water, places poor settlements under stress. Home-based systems of water purification are needed. Sewage systems are not available in most informal settlements and an absence of sewage treatment pollutes water bodies causing environmental and ecological damage. Many settlements are also prone to flooding during extreme weather events and rain seasons in the absence of a drainage system. And energy outages make life unbearable. Local-level solutions to these problems are available and need to be appropriately documented and promoted by architects working on this subject.


    Globally land has become a commodity and there is a need for an urban land reform to control speculative investments. As a result of the severe unavailability of land, poor settlements in the South have densities of about 3000 persons per hectare. These densities result in lack of privacy, toilets, sufficient water, and promote domestic violence, unemployment, and issues of equity and peace. Poor settlements are placed far away from or with little or restricted access to socio-economic and recreational facilities and as a result they have little or no upward mobility.


    Climate change mitigation is as good as the effectiveness of government operations and maintenance agencies and their relationship with informed and organized communities. There is a need for research on cheap external wall/roof installation, rainwater harvesting, and a climate-responsive and energy-efficient architecture. Meanwhile COVID has thrown up a number of design issues. Lockdown could not be observed in high-density areas and in settlements with little or no public space available, SOPs could not be imposed on schools because of the lack of space in classrooms. Closure of formal industry has resulted in a massive increase in street economy. These issues have to be integrated in future architectural and planning designs.

    4.6 ACADEMIA

    In the architectural curriculum from the very beginning, the city should be the workshop with all its problems and with an understanding of who does what, where, why, and how. The South needs to theorize on its situated demographic, organizational and constructional realities while questioning Northern theories and planning tradition. It is also necessary to develop a code of ethics so as to promote an environment and ecologically friendly thinking on land-use planning, heritage, and social change. How about a Hippocratic-like oath at graduation or registration?

    Visit the six panels

    Panel 1
    Design for Climate Adaptation

    Architecture faces a grave challenge in a world struck by climate change. The built environment must adapt to changing weather patterns, higher temperatures and flooding.

    Panel 2
    Design for Rethinking Resources

    Resources are getting scarcer, and architects need to address this issue. By using novel materials and recycling on a much greater scale, architecture can change its approach to resources.

    Panel 3
    Design for Resilient Communities

    Communities are people, and people create communities. Architects can positively impact the lives of millions, even billions, by building for the future, and creating communities that last.

    Panel 5
    Design for Inclusivity

    A sustainable world is one with room and consideration for all people. Architects must design with inclusivity in mind, and take care to understand the needs of the many different people that inhabit the globe.

    Panel 6
    Design for Partnerships of Change

    Architects must foster partnerships, and work across many different professions and skills to create a sustainable and inclusive future.

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