Health and Wellbeing: Uncovering Evidences of Interior Impacts on Occupants

Presented by: Amber Ortlieb, Dr. Amanda Gale

The built environment can impact building occupants’ health and wellbeing through various satisfaction parameters. This awareness of the positive and negative effects of the built environment has resulted in a demand for better indoor environmental quality (IEQ), which is a core issue for interior designers. Ultimately, people want to flourish in their environments (Guerin & Kwon, 2010). Applying user-centered theory, this study examines IEQ through the lens of the occupant by measuring their level of satisfaction with the indoor environment to pursue its relationship with workplace wellbeing. The premise exists that an environment can affect individuals’ physical and psychological health as well as cognition, behavior, and overall wellbeing (Stokols & Altman, 1987). Low levels of occupant satisfaction with IEQ were found to correlate to low levels of health and wellbeing (Steemers & Manchanda, 2010). In addition, unhappiness and discomfort were connected to poor psychological or physical health (Steemers & Manchanda, 2010). Literature demonstrates that dimensions of health are impacted, positively or negatively, by the indoor environment through air quality, levels of lighting, acoustics, access to daylight, and comfortable furniture (Ghodrati, Samari, & Shafiei, 2012). In the built environment, occupants express satisfaction with the interior environment as a means of conveying their health, comfort, and happiness, articulated broadly as wellbeing (Steemers & Manchanda, 2010). In previous studies, the relationship between the quality of the indoor environment and occupant satisfaction has often been supported, but these studies have inferred the outcome of this relationship is wellbeing without empirically supporting the inference, a gap addressed in this study. This study employed an online survey of 199 full-time employees that were working in six buildings at a southeastern university between September and October of 2014. The survey questionnaire included measures of respondents’ self-rated health (physical and psychological), workplace wellbeing, job satisfaction, and satisfaction with the IEQ in various dimensions including lighting, lighting control, daylight, views, indoor air quality, thermal comfort and control, acoustics, acoustical control, privacy, control of the environment, comfort of workstation and chair, aesthetics, cleanliness, and safety. Key results indicate that satisfaction with indoor air quality and thermal comfort positively influenced both occupant physical and psychological health, which in turn increased their workplace wellbeing. Satisfaction with privacy was also another significant predictor of psychological health, although its impact was not extended to influence workplace wellbeing. Further, satisfaction with acoustics was found to have a direct influence on workplace wellbeing despite that its effect on physical or psychological health was not significant. This research identifies the IEQ variables that are an integral part of the indoor environment experience based on the occupant’s satisfaction of the environment at the center of the phenomenon. This study contributes to the IEQ research by establishing the connection between IEQ satisfaction and workplace wellbeing mediated by health (physical and psychological) through the generation of empirical evidence for the influence of IEQ of a building-- specifically, indoor air quality, thermal control, acoustics, and privacy-- on its occupants’ health and workplace wellbeing. By focusing on these areas of IEQ in both education and practice of interior design, higher quality indoor environments can be developed enhancing occupant health and wellbeing. This study’s findings align with the interior designer’s fundamental responsibility to support the health, safety, and wellbeing of occupants through enhancing their quality of life in the interior environment (Guerin & Kwon, 2010).


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