Many Doctors Unaware of Effects of Buildings on Health

June 30, 2014

Hospital corridor

The critical connection between a healthy building environment and patient health is often missed by the one group of professionals who may matter most – physicians, according to a new SmartMarket report by McGraw Hill Construction, sponsored by the American Institute of Architects and United Technologies.  The survey results were announced last week at the opening session of the American Institute of Architects 2014 National Convention & Design Exposition in Chicago.

The report, “The Drive Toward Healthier Buildings: The Market Drivers and Impact of Building Design on Occupant Health, Well-Being and Productivity,” finds that though 18% of homeowners say that doctors are their primary source for information on healthy home products and decisions, only 53% of pediatricians, 32% of family doctors/general practitioners and 40% of psychiatrists believe that buildings even impact patient health.

Only 15% report receiving any information on this connection, but the results also reveal that a key challenge is not just getting information to them but gaining their attention in ways that would alter their perspective, with nearly a quarter (22%) reporting that more information would likely not change what they do today.

The report also finds that, contrary to the position held by physicians, the general public is aware of the link between buildings and people’s health.

  • 63% of homeowners believe products and practices they use at home affect their health, with the majority (50%) pointing to impact on allergies, followed by asthma/respiratory illnesses (32%) and headaches/migraines (30%).
  • 90% of homeowners believe school buildings affect student health/productivity, and 95% believe hospital buildings and operations affect patient/staff health and productivity.

“It’s becoming clear from this initial research that doctors and other health professionals must engage with architects and the design community in a major way if we are to be successful in improving public health through design,” said AIA CEO Robert Ivy, FAIA. “We look forward to furthering that dialogue with physicians and to helping support additional research into this critical public health issue.”

The study is comprised of five separate market research surveys; (1) survey of architects, contractors and owners in nonresidential construction; (2) survey of residential builders, architects, remodelers and interior designers; (3) survey of US homeowners; (4) survey of human resource executives at US firms; and (5) survey of medical professionals, including general practitioners, pediatricians and psychologists/psychiatrists.

Each survey captures the unique perspective of these stakeholders in terms of their awareness of healthy building impact, use of healthy building products and practices and drivers for them to prioritize health factors in future building decisions. More detailed findings on insights from all these groups are in the report.

“The Drive Toward Healthier Buildings: The Market Drivers and Impact of Building Design on Occupant Health, Well-Being and Productivity” SmartMarket Report was produced by McGraw Hill Construction in partnership with the American Institute of Architects and other research partners: United Technologies, CB Richard Ellis and the U.S. Green Building Council.

Source: PR Newswire

Photo: An abstract white hospital corridor with doors and red pulse lines on walls from Shutterstock



Dawn Killough

has over 15 years experience in the construction industry and is the author of Green Building Design 101, an e-book available from Amazon. She is a LEED AP and Certified Green Building Advisor, and has worked on the LEED Certification of three projects in Salem, Oregon.