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Neuroarchitecture: the trend that promotes well-being and satisfaction within offices

Do low ceilings make us less creative? Can angular layouts stress us out? Does a lack of natural light negatively affect our mood? Do dark walls prevent smooth communication? All the answers to these questions lie in neuroarchitecture, a trend that the pandemic gave a strong boost to. However, the precepts of neuroarchitecture are not only implemented in work spaces but in any place where a person lives. This is how Mariana Stange, adviser to the corporate real estate market, considers it, who assures that by focusing on the person, it is applicable to homes, schools, hospitals, offices and to all the areas where the person lives.

If we stop at the transformation of offices, for Stange “workspaces evolve with people and offices already came with important changes prior to the arrival of the coronavirus. There was already talk about the importance of cross ventilation, of having windows with natural light, open views, of the need for green spaces, but in the last two years the pandemic has accelerated everything,” says Stange. Coinciding with this acceleration of changes due to the pandemic, the architect Manuel Depierro, project and construction director at the developer Codevelopers. “Although this concept of neuroarchitecture is not new, the truth is that it has not been fully consolidated over the years. Only in the last two years, surely as a consequence of the effects that the pandemic brought on our lives and habits at home, has it deepened”, says the architect. For Depierro, applying the concepts of neuroarchitecture in real estate projects is nothing more than contemplating the human aspect in space, more precisely the mind and how it feels when faced with certain spaces in a building.

Incorporating plants generates a feeling of comfort and pleasant emotions in employees. (Project: Nestlé HQ Quito, carried out by Jasper Architects)

But what exactly is neuroarchitecture? As Stange analyzes in an exhaustive report on the subject, it arises from the dialogue between neuroscience and environmental psychology and studies the activation and reaction of the brain to certain stimuli, that is, the relationship of the human being with certain environments and architectural spaces. “If it is a place where the person works, which can be both at home and at the office, neuroarchitecture becomes important because it seeks to generate environments that cause comfort and well-being. So, the person feels better, works better, is going to be more productive and happier”, says the specialist in the corporate real estate market.

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For Martín Jasper, founder and director of Jasper Architects, the influences that people can have through a built space can be positive or negative, and we must be careful to generate spaces that do not have a negative impact. “The architecture of the spaces in which we live and work strongly influences as neuroarchitecture discovered. So parameters such as light, air, wind, lighting, materials, finishes, surfaces, humidity intervene in how we perceive a place and how we feel and use it”, explains Jasper. And look for common images to exemplify “if I am in a space that is excessively charged with heat I will feel bad, confused and I will not be able to produce, if I am in a place without natural ventilation it becomes saturated with carbon dioxide and we end up falling asleep, equally if we do not have a visual exit to the outside, to the sky, to the green, this generates a negative effect on our state of mind. “Then, the main benefit of neuroarchitecture is that we can apply its parameters as one more tool of architecture to feel better”, he reflects.

Studies indicate that there are spaces that generate well-being, while others cause anguish;  These sensations and emotions have a direct impact on people's moods.
Studies indicate that there are spaces that generate well-being, while others cause anguish; These sensations and emotions have a direct impact on people’s moods.

Indeed, studies indicate that there are spaces that generate well-being, while others cause anguish and these sensations and emotions have a direct impact on people’s state of mind, on their ability to concentrate and establish links with others. “For example, if you have a team of ten collaborators or employees and you put them to work in a square floor, painted in a dark color with a low ceiling, it is proven through studies and experiences that this group is going to have worse communication than if you put the same equipment in an open plan, with higher ceilings, well lit, ventilated. These aspects cause different bonds to be generated”, he points out.

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According to the research carried out by Stange, it is proven that:

Neurosciences affect architecture to bring well-being to people. As analyzed by Víctor Feingold, an architect graduated from the University of Buenos Aires (UBA) and founder and CEO of ContractWorkplaces, in the report prepared by Stange, neurosciences help architects to understand aspects that historically had been left to personal sensitivity. “Incorporating this knowledge when planning the environments we inhabit provides new elements to understand how the design of the space influences and modifies us”, he clarifies. It explains the enormous professional interest in neuroarchitecture that ranges from the planning of cities and public spaces that are friendlier to people, to health and learning environments that improve people’s response and mood.

Neuroarchitecture shows that it influences our moods, our productivity, our well-being
Neuroarchitecture shows that it influences our moods, our productivity, our well-being

As detailed in this report, neuroarchitecture takes into account issues such as Cardiac rhtyms, since sunlight is essential for the regulation of the endocrine and immune systems and when there is no adequate supply of natural light, alterations in the sleep-wake cycle, fatigue, lack of concentration, depression, and stress occur. Also consider the biofilia or the innate sense of connection with nature, a link that is essential to maintain for the maintenance of physical and mental health; the proxemia It is also taken into account and it is about the physical distances that people maintain between each other to stay within a comfort zone. Violation of these boundaries of personal space causes varying degrees of stress and discomfort. While the ceiling height is another aspect that affects well-being, “a study from the University of Minnesota suggests that the height of the ceiling affects mental processing. While spaces with high ceilings promote conceptual thinking and activate imagination and creative thinking, those with low ceilings activate a more concrete, focused and detailed style of thinking,” says Feingold. It adds the noise as one of the most frequent complaints of job dissatisfaction. “Several studies indicate that continuous noise stress can induce cortisol release. This affects the processing of emotions, learning, reasoning and impulse control, altering the ability to think clearly and retain information”, explains the architect. Finally, in his analysis he includes the morphology, that is, the forms with which the environment is materialized that can provide sensory triggers. “Using brain scanning techniques, it was found that angular shapes benefit alertness and concentration, while smooth, rounded shapes satisfy our emotional need for safety and security,” he concludes.

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Therefore, for Feingold, Architecture must be understood within the context of the effects that design produces on both the physiology and psychology of its occupants.. “This will give us the opportunity to create spaces that take into account people’s biological dispositions to enhance the experience of working within a healthy and motivating environment.”

However, when designing or building, in addition to the parameters proposed by neuroarchitecture, it is essential to consider the specific needs of people. That is to say, knowing and interpreting the desires and the form of use that is going to be given to the places. This is how the director of Codevelopers considers it, “neuroarchitecture shows that it influences our moods, our productivity, our well-being. But that is the starting point, then we must know what the person who is going to inhabit that space needs. Is it a young student who needs to concentrate to study, is it a family with children that requires a combination of recreational and relaxation spaces, are they elderly people who require tranquility, but at the same time lively environments? The key is to know the relationship between the mind and spatiality, but also the specific needs of the people who will inhabit a place”, he warns.

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