The level of stress experienced by workers may have a direct relationship to the ability of the workplace to meet and withstand crisis conditions, according to a recent report by global architecture and design firm Perkins+Will. The report, “Weathering the Storm: Mental Health and Resilient Design,” examines how the amount of stress workers face—whether fueled by natural disasters such as extreme weather and earthquakes or man-made crises including criminal activity and terror threats—may be mitigated by resilient design.
“Just as sustainability once dominated our conversations about where we live and work, vulnerability and resilience now rank among the architecture profession’s most pressing concerns,” says David Cordell, an interior designer at Perkins+Will’s Washington, D.C. office and co-author of the report. “Based on our research, we believe that even though measures for resilience are emerging as important tools in determining the future safety and crisis-responsiveness of our workplaces, often overlooked is the impact on mental health—that is, how resilient design can mitigate declines in the psychological wellness of the workforce.
The report probes how, in addition to mental health impacts that can vary from anxiety to severe depression and worse, stress also cuts into worker productivity and the bottom line. The report suggests that, in the future, all workplaces should be designed with resilience in mind as an indispensable cost of doing business.
“In direct response to contemporary workplace challenges, architectural design may incorporate resilience that isn’t as obvious as flex spaces to store water and nonperishable food or security-conscious safe zones,” says Jon Penndorf, an architect at Perkins+Will’s Washington, D.C. office and co-author of the report. “For instance, a green roof designed for sustainability strategies like storm water management or insulation could serve a dual purpose as a safe place to retreat after a catastrophic event or an alternate environment that is available before, during, and after a crisis to reduce stress.”
The report also suggests that shared knowledge of resilient design and operations with building occupants and users, through pre-event preparedness or other means, may enhance a collective peace of mind and avert anticipatory
Resiliency is one of 10 key areas of focus of Perkins+Will research labs. At the forefront of architectural inquiry, these labs seek to gather intelligence about the way buildings affect human experience, the most innovative and healthy building materials and technologies, and the latest energy efficiency strategies to enable the firm to design smarter more competitive built environments.
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