Creating Sustainable Communities for Better Mental Health

How can we design communities that prioritize our mental health? Jawad Altamimi gives an insight into how communities play a critical role in enhancing our well-being.
Jawad Altamimi | UAE | Community Management

As cities become more urbanized, it is crucial to create sustainable residential communities that promote health and well-being, especially for mental health.

These communities play a critical role in enhancing the quality of life, physical activity, and social interaction, ultimately leading to better mental health.
Creating these communities requires collaboration between local authorities, urban planners, and the community, with mental health as a priority.

Three essential features of sustainable communities that can improve mental health include sustainable mobility, green infrastructure, natural elements, and improved indoor and outdoor environmental quality.

Incorporating these elements into the built environment can significantly impact mental health by reducing stress, increasing physical activity, and promoting social interaction.

Sustainable Mobility:

Physical activity is essential for better mental health. Sustainable mobility planning encourages and promotes fitness, supporting a healthy lifestyle. In a sustainable community, walking becomes the core of mobility planning, from sidewalks, and pedestrian-friendly street design patterns, to natural elements in the public realm.

The use of micro-mobility options such as cycling and mobility-as-a-service enables people to commute without personal vehicles. This way, residents can interact with the natural environment, spend more time outdoors, and improve their social life and mental health.

Green Infrastructure and Natural Elements:

Green infrastructure and natural elements in the built environment significantly impact mental health. It reduces air pollution, provides more opportunities for mobile sports outdoors, and improves the quality of life by reducing noise and supporting better sleep.

A sustainable community focuses on creating a space for people, not traffic. A well-designed, sustainable outdoor space with public art, museums, architecture, and natural elements improves the sense of belonging and civic pride of the community residents, enhancing psychological and physical comfort of people.

Improved Outdoor and Indoor Environmental Quality (IEQ):

To provide a healthy living environment, indoor environmental quality (IEQ) plays a vital role in resident health. A sustainable community employs sustainable design to improve natural ventilation, natural lighting, and thermal comfort, and reduce noise levels.

The technology deployment to measure, monitor, and control IEQ factors is also critical in improving the quality of life of the community residents. Poor IEQ can lead to health problems, including mental health issues such as depression and anxiety.

Strategies to improve mental health in communities;

built environment professionals can implement multiple strategies to improve mental health, a few of such strategies could be;

  1. Increase access to natural light: Bring natural light into indoor spaces, decrease glare, as well as providing outdoor access and views of nature.
  2. Provide green spaces: Incorporate green spaces, gardens, and parks into residential communities to promote relaxation and stress relief.
  3. Encourage social interaction: Provide spaces for social interaction, such as community gardens, outdoor patios, and common rooms, to foster a sense of community and belonging.
  4. Incorporate flexible spaces that can be used for multiple purposes to encourage social interaction and community engagement.
  5. Promote active transportation: Encourage walking, biking, or other forms of active transportation to promote physical activity and reduce stress.
  6. Provide access to exercise facilities: Provide exercise facilities such as gyms, walking trails, and outdoor fitness equipment to encourage physical activity and reduce stress.
  7. Use technology to measure environmental quality factors to ensure a healthy living environment.
  8. Promote natural materials and textures: Use natural materials and textures such as wood, stone, and natural fabrics to create a calming and grounding indoor environment.

In conclusion, a healthy living environment with natural elements and social interaction leads to a better quality of life for residents. Integrating natural, social, and economic aspects in harmony and balance is vital for better mental health in communities, where humans can thrive now and for generations to come.

(The author, Jawad Altamimi, Director of facility and community management- LOAMS. Jawad is a built environment professional, his primary focus is on integrating technology to achieve sustainability in the built environment.)

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