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HOW we should adapt our built habitats to our body systems

Did you ever hear about the Savannah Hypothesis which argues that human bipedalism is a result of our ancestors' adaptation to the grasslands of the Savannah millions of years ago?

Researchers are still debating on the influence of habitats on our species' evolution: beyond bipedalism, it is believed that many of our body systems slowly adapted to all kinds of properties of their surroundings.

As we are nowadays spending an average of 90% of our time indoors, we can clearly state that buildings have become the main background of our daily lives.  But many of our buildings are associated with sicknesses and psychological illnesses. The sick building syndrome (SBS) for instance is a common worldwide health problem associated with chronic diseases caused by the built environment. Poor ventilation and emissions of volatile organic compounds both result in harmful indoor air quality. Our mental wellbeing is also know to be affected by access to natural daylight and views of greenery.

Over the years we have decided to completely reshape the natural habitats Mother Nature has given us and to build new types of habitats ourselves aiming to fulfill comfort and safety needs. As architects, we believe it is crucial to understand how our bodies interact with and benefit from the environment. We must learn from what Nature has given us, from our mistakes in the past, and also follow our intuitive need for a reconnection with nature. 

Conscious of these imperatives, at Ardism, we design our buildings based on the below principles: 

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Indoor Air Quality

Sadly enough, we have ended up creating indoor air that is actually deadlier than the outdoor air! Because a poor air quality has been proven to contribute to many health problems, such as respiratory illnesses, heart diseases, eye irritation, fatigue, headaches, ...

At Ardism, we take care for our buildings to promote:

  • Adequate ventilation and air filtering, even during construction;

  • Operable windows;

  • Monitoring of carbon dioxide and other contaminants;

  • The use of low-emitting, non-toxic materials only;

  • The installation of entryway systems to keep dust out;

  • Separated rooms allocated for hazardous materials.

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Hygrothermal Comfort

Studies show that poor indoor hygrothermal conditions increase the risk of health issues such as respiratory symptoms, asthma and allergy. As raising our hygrothermal comfort levels is one of the first reasons we started building shelters, it is logical that Ardism strives to do the best job possible by:

  • Properly insulating our buildings;

  • Providing adapted radiant heating, cooling and ventilation;

  • Installing operable windows (again!);

  • Giving individuals the option to control their own environment as this increases their tolerance of more varied condtions.

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Sufficient Daylight

Throughout their evolution, all living things on earth have been exposed to the natural day/night rhythm. As such our own circadian rhythm has developed to help make sure that the body’s processes are optimized at various points during this 24-hour period. Virtually all body systems are regulated this way, including our immune system. Disrupting this rhythm can lead to various sicknesses including mental health problems.

At the same time, visual comfort needs to be addressed to ensure optimal conditions for building users to perform their tasks.

Ardism's strategies are:

  • Sufficient access to natural daylight;

  • Additional electric lighting adapted to the spaces and their function;

  • Glare control;

  • Use of qualitative electric lighting;

  • Use of circadian lighting in adapted spaces (varying light levels and color temperature through the day).

  • Giving individuals the option to control their own environment.

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Acoustic Comfort

Noise pollution is a well-known problem that affects human health and well-being. It is believed that exposure to low-frequency noises, such as from transportation or mechanical equipment, is associated to the noises created by our ancestors' predators in the Savannah. They would uncounsciously trigger stressful reactions such as "fight or flight mode" or "freeze shutdown dissociation". 

Acoustics also need to be designed properly in order to ensure speech privacy, especially in health care settings.

This is how Ardism improves acoustics in its projects:

  • Balanced use of soft (absorbant) and hard finishes;

  • Acoustic design through the geometry of building elements;

  • Adequate acoustic insulation;

  • Separation and insulation of noise sources through smart planning.

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Connection to Nature

At Ardism, we believe in the principles of biophilia, according to which humans have an innate biological connection with nature. Evidence shows that exposure to nature actually reduces cognitive fatigue and stress and increases the levels of concentration. Many types of therapies use these virtues of nature.

In buildings we can both benefit from a relationship with the surrounding nature and with elements of nature brought inside. 

With great care, Ardism follows principles of biophilia, such as:

  • Optimizing views to the surrounding greenery;

  • Fading of the limits between the outside and the inside;

  • Integrating plants to the outer skin of the building (on balconies, green roofs,...);

  • Operable windows (again & again!) to let nature's phytoncides enter the air;

  • Planning of inner courtyards, gardens, green walls or other green spaces;

  • Use of natural materials, patterns or structures that remind us of nature;

  • Selecting artwork depicting green sceneries.

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Physical Activity

Sedentary lifestyles can contribute to different chronic diseases, such as heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and obesity to name but a few. However, we know these are preventable if adapting a physically more active lifestyle. Ardism promotes physical activity by:

  • Providing specific spaces or facilities for body movement;

  • Offer invitations to move, such as appealing staircases, bike racks and running tracks around the perimeter of the building;

  • Furnish the building with ergonomic furniture.

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Sense of Community

"Man is by nature a social animal.", as Aristotle wisely pointed. Our physical and mental health is strongly affected by our interactions with others. At Ardism we feel it is also our role to design spaces that foster positive interactions for all building users by:

  • Providing sufficient spaces for gatherings;

  • Planning to allow for casual encounters;

  • Applying universal design principles that enable individuals with different backgrounds, indentities and abilities to access, participate and thrive within the building.

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