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Nature, Health, & the Built Environment

City skyline with park in foreground


The world is urbanizing quickly. Factors such as overcrowding, air pollution, too much noise, and a lack of access to nature contribute to the emotional and physical stress of urban life. As cities continue to grow, we need to design our buildings, neighborhoods, and commons to promote human health.

The Center’s Nature, Health, and the Built Environment program draws from research to support evidence-based recommendations that help policymakers, urban designers, and physicians support healthy communities.

Protecting and enhancing opportunities to connect with nature

City dwellers rely on urban parks to provide a space for recreation, relaxation, and restoration. Research suggests that even small amounts of daily contact with nature can help us think more clearly, reduce our stress, and improve our physical health.

Regular access to nature also nurtures a personal connection to the environment that compels us to protect it. We must foster this connection—by including natural elements in our city and building designs—to strengthen our sense of environmental stewardship and responsibility.

Designing healthy buildings

The quality of indoor spaces—including the temperature, humidity, noise, light, space, air quality—affects our health and productivity. We spend nearly 80–90 percent of our time indoors and yet relatively little is known about how building design, performance, and maintenance affect our health, well-being, and productivity.

Knowledge about how the indoor environment affects health fosters innovation in building design and technologies. Quantifying the health benefits realized from new practices hastens their adoption in the marketplace as building owners and developers are able to recognize their value. 


Photo by samchad | iStockphoto