Special Issue "Healing Spaces: Designing Physical Environments to Optimize Health, Wellbeing and Performance"

A special issue of International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health (ISSN 1660-4601). This special issue belongs to the section "Environmental Health".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (31 October 2019).

Special Issue Editors

Prof. Dr. Esther M. Sternberg
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Director, Institute on Place, Wellbeing & Performance; Research Director, UA Center for Integrative Medicine, University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ, USA
Interests: design and health; wearable devices; stress response; built environment
Dr. Altaf Engineer
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
School of Architecture, University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ, USA
Interests: health and the built environment; equitable design; new building technologies; daylighting; social and behaviorial issues in design
Dr. Aletheia Ida
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
School of Architecture, University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ, USA
Interests: environmental building technologies; emerging materials; energy and water conservation; bioresponsive design; machine learning integration

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

The field of design and health, previously the domain of healthcare design professionals, has now reached a turning point with the proliferation of a plethora of non-invasive wearable technologies to provide objective and near-real-time measurement of the impact of many features of the built environment on aspects of health, wellbeing and performance. In turn, new materials and the Internet of Things are allowing the development of smart buildings, which can interact with occupants to optimize their health, wellbeing, performance and overall experience. Companies previously focused on positioning themselves as “green” are now turning to positioning themselves in the marketplace as both green and healthy. This Special Issue will include articles that address new cutting edge technologies and materials at the interface between design and health, will review some of the latest findings of studies using these technologies, and will suggest exciting future directions for the field. It will include articles focused on objective data gathered to document the effects of the built environment on health. Importantly, it will focus on the use of innovative methods of measurement, such as state-of-the-art wearable and environmental sensors, quantifying aspects of health such as stress and relaxation responses, activity, posture, sleep quality, cognitive performance and wellbeing outcomes. It will also examine the impacts of different elements of the built environment on these health and wellbeing outcomes. Published articles will focus on design interventions informed by these measurements, along with innovative integrated building materials that can shape the design of built environments for better health, productivity, and performance. It will also address the return on investment (ROI) of such design interventions. The Special Issue will provide both the foundational knowledge and fundamentals for characterizing human health and wellbeing in the built environment, as well as emerging trends and design methods for innovations in this field.

Prof. Dr. Esther M. Sternberg
Dr. Altaf Engineer
Dr. Aletheia Ida
Guest Editors

Manuscript Submission Information

Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. All papers will be peer-reviewed. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as short communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a single-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health is an international peer-reviewed open access semimonthly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 2000 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.

Keywords

  • New technologies in design and health
  • Health and performance
  • Built environment
  • Smart buildings
  • Internet of Things (IoT)
  • Wearable devices
  • Environmental sensors
  • Bioresponsive design

Published Papers (9 papers)

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Editorial

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Open AccessEditorial
Healing Spaces: Designing Physical Environments to Optimize Health, Wellbeing, and Performance
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2020, 17(4), 1155; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph17041155 - 12 Feb 2020
Abstract
This Special Issue on Healing Spaces includes eight articles consisting of studies at the interface between design and health. The articles address some of the latest findings using state-of-the-art technologies, important outcomes for human health and wellbeing, and suggest exciting directions for the [...] Read more.
This Special Issue on Healing Spaces includes eight articles consisting of studies at the interface between design and health. The articles address some of the latest findings using state-of-the-art technologies, important outcomes for human health and wellbeing, and suggest exciting directions for the future of this research field. Full article

Research

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Open AccessCommunication
Can Exposure to Certain Urban Green Spaces Trigger Frontal Alpha Asymmetry in the Brain?—Preliminary Findings from a Passive Task EEG Study
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2020, 17(2), 394; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph17020394 - 07 Jan 2020
Cited by 1
Abstract
A growing body of evidence from observational and experimental studies shows the associations between exposure to urban green spaces (UGSs) and mental health outcomes. Little is known about which specific features of UGS that might be the most beneficial. In addition, there is [...] Read more.
A growing body of evidence from observational and experimental studies shows the associations between exposure to urban green spaces (UGSs) and mental health outcomes. Little is known about which specific features of UGS that might be the most beneficial. In addition, there is potential in utilizing objective physiological markers of mental health, such as assessing brain activity, but the subject requires further investigation. This paper presents the preliminary findings from an on-going within-subject experiment where adult participants (n = 22; 13 females) were passively exposed to six landscape scenes within two UGSs (a park and a neighborhood green space) and three scenes of a busy urban downtown (control site). The landscape scenes were pre-selected based on their contemplative landscape score (CLS) to represent different levels of aggregation of contemplative features within each view. Participants went to each of the sites in a random order to passively view the scenes, while their electroencephalography (EEG) signal was being recorded concurrently. Frontal alpha asymmetry (FAA) values, commonly associated with the approach-related motivation and positive emotions, were extracted. The preliminary results show trends for the main effect of site on FAA, suggestive of stronger FAA in park compared to the control site, akin to more positive mood. There was also a trend for the interaction between the site and scene, which suggests that even within the individual sites, there is variability depending on the specific scene. Adjusting for environmental covariate strengthened these effects, these interim findings are promising in supporting the study hypothesis and suggest that exposure to urban green spaces may be linked to mental health outcomes. Full article
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Open AccessArticle
Benefits of A Three-Day Bamboo Forest Therapy Session on the Psychophysiology and Immune System Responses of Male College Students
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2019, 16(24), 4991; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph16244991 - 08 Dec 2019
Cited by 2
Abstract
Forest therapy is a fast-growing treatment approach, as it has the potential to alleviate stressful life events and to improve psychological well-being and physical health. Bamboo forests are widespread in southwestern China. Nevertheless, a knowledge gap on the specific health benefits of bamboo [...] Read more.
Forest therapy is a fast-growing treatment approach, as it has the potential to alleviate stressful life events and to improve psychological well-being and physical health. Bamboo forests are widespread in southwestern China. Nevertheless, a knowledge gap on the specific health benefits of bamboo forest (BF) therapy still exists. To explore the psycho-physiologic responses of participants to the effects of BF therapy, 60 male adults aged between 19 and 24, with similar healthy conditions, were selected to participate in this study. A one-group pretest–posttest design was used for the BF sites and the city site (CS) to compare the difference in the psycho-physiologic responses of participants before and after the test. Participants at the BF sites participated in a three-day bamboo forest therapy session, and those at the CS participated in a three-day urban program. Blood pressure, heart rate, and peripheral oxygen saturation were measured as the physical signs, and the profile of mood state (POMS) questionnaire was completed by the participants for the psychological evaluation. Blood was sampled, and natural killer (NK) activity, the number of NK cells, and the levels of corticosterone, granulysin, perforin, and granzyme A/B in peripheral blood lymphocytes (PBLs) were measured. All the measurements mentioned above were performed at 08:00 on the first and fourth days within the test. Results indicated that the three-day BF therapy was capable of enhancing positive mood states and also reducing negative mood states in the male participants. The blood pressure and heart rates of the male participants decreased, while the peripheral oxygen saturation increased after the three-day BF therapy session. Furthermore, BF therapy significantly increased NK activity and the number of NK cells and perforin-, granulysin-, and granzyme A/B-expressing cells and significantly decreased the corticosterone level in PBLs in the male participants. The three-day BF therapy session improved the psychological and physiological well-being and enhanced the immune functions of the male college students. Full article
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Open AccessArticle
Density of Green Spaces and Cardiovascular Risk Factors in the City of Madrid: The Heart Healthy Hoods Study
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2019, 16(24), 4918; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph16244918 - 05 Dec 2019
Cited by 1
Abstract
The aim of this study is to evaluate the relationship between the density of green spaces at different buffer sizes (300, 500, 1000 and 1500 m) and cardiovascular risk factors (obesity, hypertension, high cholesterol, and diabetes) as well as to study if the [...] Read more.
The aim of this study is to evaluate the relationship between the density of green spaces at different buffer sizes (300, 500, 1000 and 1500 m) and cardiovascular risk factors (obesity, hypertension, high cholesterol, and diabetes) as well as to study if the relationship is different for males and females. We conducted cross-sectional analyses using the baseline measures of the Heart Healthy Hoods study (N = 1625). We obtained data on the outcomes from clinical diagnoses, as well as anthropometric and blood sample measures. Exposure data on green spaces density at different buffer sizes were derived from the land cover distribution map of Madrid. Results showed an association between the density of green spaces within 300 and 500 m buffers with high cholesterol and diabetes, and an association between the density of green spaces within 1500 m buffer with hypertension. However, all of these associations were significant only in women. Study results, along with other evidence, may help policy-makers creating healthier environments that could reduce cardiovascular disease burden and reduce gender health inequities. Further research should investigate the specific mechanisms behind the differences by gender and buffer size of the relationship between green spaces and cardiovascular risk factors. Full article
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Open AccessArticle
Neighborhood Built Environment and Socioeconomic Status are Associated with Active Commuting and Sedentary Behavior, but not with Leisure-Time Physical Activity, in University Students
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2019, 16(17), 3176; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph16173176 - 31 Aug 2019
Cited by 2
Abstract
The role of neighborhood characteristics in promoting physical activity and sedentary behaviors (SB) has not been extensively studied in university students. The study purpose was to analyze the associations of neighborhood built environment and neighborhood socioeconomic status (SES) with active commuting, leisure-time physical [...] Read more.
The role of neighborhood characteristics in promoting physical activity and sedentary behaviors (SB) has not been extensively studied in university students. The study purpose was to analyze the associations of neighborhood built environment and neighborhood socioeconomic status (SES) with active commuting, leisure-time physical activity (LTPA), and SB among university students. This is a cross-sectional study of 308 undergraduate students from two urban universities in Valencia, Spain. Participants’ residential neighborhoods were classified according to walkability and SES levels. Walkability was defined as an index of three built environment attributes (i.e., residential density, land-use mix, and street connectivity) based on geographical information system data. Active commuting to and from university (ACU), active commuting in the neighborhood, LTPA, and SB were evaluated through a questionnaire. Mixed model regression analyses were performed. There were no significant SES–walkability interactions for any of the outcomes analyzed. However, university students living in more walkable areas reported two more ACU trips per week compared to those living in less walkable neighborhoods (p < 0.01). University students living in lower-SES neighborhoods reported more ACU trips per week than those living in higher-SES neighborhoods (p < 0.05). Regarding LTPA, there were no significant SES or walkability main effects. Neighborhood SES was negatively related to active commuting in the neighborhood and to time spent in SB (all p < 0.05). Participants living in lower-SES neighborhoods reported more active commuting per week and had the highest average minutes spent in SB. This study highlights the relevance of assessing university’s residential environment when active transportation and SB are analyzed. Full article
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Open AccessArticle
Urban Open Space Is Associated with Better Renal Function of Adult Residents in New Taipei City
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2019, 16(13), 2436; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph16132436 - 09 Jul 2019
Cited by 1
Abstract
The purpose of this study is to explore the association between proximity to open space and adult renal function. This was a cross-sectional study. Adult residents of Taipei metropolis were recruited in the analysis. The proximity of each subject to open space was [...] Read more.
The purpose of this study is to explore the association between proximity to open space and adult renal function. This was a cross-sectional study. Adult residents of Taipei metropolis were recruited in the analysis. The proximity of each subject to open space was measured using the Geographic Information System. Residents were divided into two groups: with and without chronic kidney disease (CKD). We made univariable comparisons between the two groups. The logistic regression models were used to estimate the odds ratio of CKD. Forest plot was used to examine the effect of interaction between distance to open space and subgroup variable on CKD. A total number of 21,656 subjects with mean age 53.6 years were enrolled in the study. Of the subjects, 2226 (10.28%) had CKD. The mean and standard deviation of distance to open space were 117.23 m and 80.19 m, respectively. Every 100 m distance to open space was associated with an odds ratio of 1.071 for CKD. Subgroup analysis revealed that residents of female, without hypertension, or without impaired fasting glucose (IFG) living more than 200 m from open spaces have greater odds of CKD than those living less than 200 m. Conclusions: Proximity to open space was associated with a lower prevalence of CKD among adults in Taiwan. Such association was enhanced among females and healthy adults without hypertension or impaired fasting glucose (IFG). Full article
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Open AccessArticle
Relation between Psychological Restorativeness and Lifestyle, Quality of Life, Resilience, and Stress-Coping in Forest Settings
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2019, 16(8), 1456; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph16081456 - 24 Apr 2019
Cited by 2
Abstract
Previous research has mainly dealt with the physiological and psychological restorative effects of the forest environment. However, comparatively few studies have focused on how the traits and attributes of individuals (individual traits) affect the restorative effects of the forest environment. In this study, [...] Read more.
Previous research has mainly dealt with the physiological and psychological restorative effects of the forest environment. However, comparatively few studies have focused on how the traits and attributes of individuals (individual traits) affect the restorative effects of the forest environment. In this study, we examined the relationships between the psychological restorative effects offered by perceived restorativeness of outdoor settings and the individual traits. Then, we investigated the relationships between the restorative indicators that are useful in examining the restorative properties (i.e., the Perceived Restorativeness Scale (PRS); seven indicators in total), the psychological restorative effect (Profile of Mood States (POMS), Restorative Outcome Scale (ROS), positive and negative affect schedule (PANAS), and Subjective Vitality Scale (SVS); 10 indicators in total), and the individual trait indicators that could be used to investigate individual traits (Development of Health and Life Habit Inventory for lifestyle, Lazarus-type Stress Coping Inventory for stress coping, World Health Organization Quality of Life Assessment 26 for quality of life (QOL), and Sukemune-Hiew Resilience test for resilience; 28 indicators in total) in forest and urban settings. Respondents consisted of 46 male students in their twenties. A short-term experiment was conducted using the same method in both environmental settings. We then analyzed the intrinsic restorative properties and the restorative effects of the settings and referred to prior research to determine the restorative effects. Furthermore, we analyzed the relationship between the restorative indicators and the individual trait indicators by correlation analysis and multiple regression (step-wise) analysis. These new findings were obtained: (1) the forest setting was a restorative environment with a higher restorative effect than the urban setting; (2) although the forest setting had a higher restorative effect than the urban setting, and the influence of individual traits was small; (3) in the forest setting, the relationship between the restorative indicators and individual traits indicators were arranged; (4) distancing (Stress coping), psychological health (QOL), and satisfaction with living environment (QOL) were likely important indicators that are related to the restorative effects in the forest setting. Full article
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Review

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Open AccessReview
The Impact of Green Space on Violent Crime in Urban Environments: An Evidence Synthesis
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2019, 16(24), 5119; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph16245119 - 14 Dec 2019
Cited by 1
Abstract
Can the presence of green space in urban environments reduce the frequency of violent crime? To ascertain the evidence on this topic, we conducted an in-depth literature review using the PRISMA checklist. The search parameters included US articles written in English and published [...] Read more.
Can the presence of green space in urban environments reduce the frequency of violent crime? To ascertain the evidence on this topic, we conducted an in-depth literature review using the PRISMA checklist. The search parameters included US articles written in English and published since 2000. More than 30,000 potential paper titles were identified and ultimately, 45 papers were selected for inclusion. Green spaces typically comprised tree cover, parks and ground cover. Criminal behaviors typically included murder, assault, and theft. The majority of the research reviewed involved quantitative methods (e.g., comparison of green space area to crime data). We extracted multiple mechanisms from the literature that may account for the impact of green space on crime including social interaction and recreation, community perception, biophilic stress reduction, climate modulation, and spaces expressing territorial definition. Recommendations are made for future research, such as meta-analysis of existing data and the development of grounded theory through qualitative data-gathering methods. By providing evidence that access to nature has a mitigating impact on violence in urban settings, city governments and communities are empowered to support these interventions. Full article
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Other

Open AccessConcept Paper
Designing Supportive Soundscapes for Nursing Home Residents with Dementia
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2019, 16(24), 4904; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph16244904 - 04 Dec 2019
Cited by 1
Abstract
Sound and its resulting soundscape is a major appraisal component of the living environment. Where environmental sounds (e.g., outdoor traffic sounds) are often perceived as negative, a soundscape (e.g., containing natural sounds) can also have a positive effect on health and well-being. This [...] Read more.
Sound and its resulting soundscape is a major appraisal component of the living environment. Where environmental sounds (e.g., outdoor traffic sounds) are often perceived as negative, a soundscape (e.g., containing natural sounds) can also have a positive effect on health and well-being. This supportive effect of a soundscape is getting increasing attention for use in practice. This paper addresses the design of a supportive sonic environment for persons with dementia in nursing homes. Starting from a review of key mechanisms related to sonic perception, cognitive deficits and related behavior, a framework is derived for the composition of a sonic environment for persons with dementia. The proposed framework is centered around using acoustic stimuli for influencing mood, stimulating the feeling of safety and triggering a response in a person. These stimuli are intended to be deployed as added sounds in a nursing home to improve the well-being and behavior of the residents. Full article
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