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Holistic Design

  The Duke Integrative Medicine center’s holistic design includes a circular library and sitting room, with soaring glass walls that open onto the surrounding forest  .

The Duke Integrative Medicine center’s holistic design includes a circular library and sitting room, with soaring glass walls that open onto the surrounding forest.



Table of Contents

I.     Introduction to Holistic Design

  • Environmental Psychology
  • Neuroscience
  • Landscaping and the Environment
  •  Horticulture & Plants
  • Society & Culture

II.                Hospitals and Health Care

III.             Offices and the Workplace

IV.            Homes

V.               Schools

VI.            Innovations

VII.         Concept Home Design

VIII.      Conclusion


Introduction to Holistic Design


“The real key is to live in an environment where the mind feels free to choose the right thing instead of being compelled by habit and inertia to choose the wrong thing.”

                                                                                                       ~Deepak Chopra

     Hospitals, schools, offices, and homes are the most popular places where people spend their day and that will be the focus of this paper. Considering the time spent at these places it would make sense for them to be sustainable, as well as healing and culturally relevant. In today’s societies we have many multicultural cities, it is a key aspect of holistic design and culture should always be considered. The objective of this paper is to discuss the four important areas in holistic design, which are Society & Culture, Human Psychology, Landscaping & the Environment, and Horticulture & Plants. It will also show the importance of realizing the connectivity of these modalities as they influence our health, especially psychology, more specifically neuroscience and environmental psychology. It is also worth noting, the standard by which a building project is rated and built is called LEED (Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design). “LEED is an ecology-oriented building certification program run under the auspices of the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC). LEED concentrates its efforts on improving performance across five key areas of environmental and human health: energy efficiency, indoor environmental quality, materials selection, sustainable site development and water savings.” (Search Data Center, nd) It is recognized as the international mark of excellence for green building in over 132 countries. “LEED has special rating systems that apply to all kinds of structures, including schools, retail and healthcare facilities.” (Search Data Center, 2010) 



     Environmental Psychology

     One of the more critical aspects of Holistic Design is understanding Environmental Psychology. Irving Weiner, AIA, an environmental psychology professor at Massasoit Community College in Middleborough, Mass said “Some environmental influences we can see or touch, such as seeing the aesthetics of a space or touching an upholstered ergonomic chair, some of these environmental influences we cannot see or touch, yet they have a direct influence on our behavior or mood.” (AIA, 2012) Environmental psychology studies architecture to wildlife conservation, climate change and outdoor recreation to get a clear understanding of how natural environments and built environments influence human behavior. In order to identify “stressful designs” they need to create better models, for instance how the outdoors effects children as opposed to children who stay inside all day. (PT, nd) “Environmental psychology explores how physical spaces influence the way we feel, think, and interact with the world and vice versa.” (PT, nd) Urban landscapes also offer insight into the effects of a built environment.

     Interestingly I have found that the psychology of the placebo effect plays an important role in how our environment affects us. The placebo effect is quite simple and easy to understand although it is still a mysterious phenomenon.  “A placebo is any substance that is not known to have any pharmacological effects (produces no meaningful changes in an organism, either chemical, biological, etc.) that is made to look like an active ("real") drug. Sometimes the act of taking a pill produces an effect if the person believes the pill is active. To compensate for this, scientists often give placebos to determine if an effect is due to the "real" drug or from the act of just taking a pill.” (Alley Dog, nd) The idea that we can trick ourselves into healing leads one to believe in the power of positive thinking and how much of the “placebo effect” is a result of that. There was also a study done that showed genes play a part in the placebo effect. Apparently certain people are not fooled as easily. “People with a gene variant that codes for higher levels of the brain chemical dopamine respond better to placebos than those with the low-dopamine version.” (Ghose, 2012) This is also something that needs to be considered when designing, as the “placebo effect” or “the design” may not be as effective for some individuals.

     There is some talk about changing the name of Placebo Effect in order to capture the deeper meaning of it. “Kaptchuk proposes that the use of the word placebo, with its host of negative associations, be laid to rest. More helpful, he says, is the term “contextual healing,” which speaks to the importance of a healing environment.” (Marglin, nd) The environment can actually be the placebo effect and designing healing places that focus on individual environmental needs can greatly reduce the use of drugs and the amount of time needed for recovery. “Being removed from an environment which a patient associates with illness and being placed in a different environment which is commonly associated with healing, such as a physician's office or a hospital, can immediately reduce the patient's stress level. This means that placebos are not always in the form of medicines, and that merely changing environments can trigger the placebo effect” (Brown, 1998) Studying how our environment affects us will become more of a focus in the years to come. Learning how to be sustainable of mind is just as important as being ecologically sustainable.



     Important discoveries in neuroscience are revealing just how the mind works and researches are in a frenzy exploring it. New studies come out daily, adding further truth to age old wisdoms that have been neglected such as mind over matter.  “Neuroscience is showing that our brain and nervous, endocrine, and immune systems are constantly interacting. As neuroscientist Candace Pert said, “What you are thinking at any moment is changing your biochemistry.” (Zborowsky, R.N., Ph.D., T., Jo Kreitzer, Ph.D., R.N., 2008) The mission of the Academy of Neuroscience for Architecture is “to promote and advance knowledge that links neuroscience research to a growing understanding of human responses to the built environment.” (ANAF, nd)

     This next example demonstrates how design can have adverse effects on humans. In this situation the design challenged new born babies, when a nurturing design would have been more appropriate. Knowing when to challenge and when to nurture are extremely important and neuroscience acts as a guide or a map to assist designers in making the right choices. “Hospital rooms for premature babies were long built to accommodate their medical equipment and caregivers, not to promote the development of the newborns’ brains. Neuroscience research tells us that the constant noise and harsh lighting of such environments can interfere with the early development of a baby’s visual and auditory systems.” (Badger, 2012)

     With proper adherence to the latest findings in Neuroscience I think we have the potential to enhance the human brain and be a catalyst in a new era of evolution. Although the reality of things can always be different. “Enriched environments might enhance the performance of the human brain, and the growth of new brain cells. Whitelaw is cautious about this profound idea, particularly because architects have learned they shouldn’t overpromise.” (Badger, 2012) Alison Whitelaw, FAIA is on the board of directors for the Academy of Neuroscience for Architecture. “I’m not saying that we’re going to be able to evolve the human brain further,” she says.

 “Designed to translate cutting-edge neuroscience research into the best, most advanced patient care available, IUH’s LEED Gold Neuroscience Center of Excellence takes inspiration from the bicameral organization of the human brain. The north side houses the more "rational" clinical and support functions, the south side houses the more "emotional" functions of patient care, and the west side houses the collaborative functions so important to translational research.” (Cannon Design, nd)

“Designed to translate cutting-edge neuroscience research into the best, most advanced patient care available, IUH’s LEED Gold Neuroscience Center of Excellence takes inspiration from the bicameral organization of the human brain. The north side houses the more "rational" clinical and support functions, the south side houses the more "emotional" functions of patient care, and the west side houses the collaborative functions so important to translational research.” (Cannon Design, nd)

     Other mechanisms that can be utilized are the use of colors, lighting, and layout in design. “Using color, lighting, and layout, though, architects may be able to design places to provide the sensory experiences that neuroscience demonstrates produce the best brain response.” (Badger, 2012)

     There is vast amount of information that neuroscience can provide. An important factor as we begin to reveal information through neuroscience, is realizing and acknowledging there is a fine line between abusing design and using it to enhance humans positively.  With high probability to “control” it can raise many questions, as to the motives behind many designs today. One such example would be traffic light cameras or other similar invasions of privacy. It is more about a natural approach than using design for entrapment. “The interests of privacy, liberty and security can be balanced and safeguarded concurrently. In order to accomplish this worthy objective, new laws must further regulate directly and proactively the design and manufacture of these privacy-intrusive technologies in the first place, rather than only regulate their use or operation.” (Klitou, 2012)

    Other research shows that fractals associated with nature have a positive effect on our wellbeing, (Hagerhall, Purcell & Taylor, 2004; Taylor, 2006; Taylor et. al., 2005). “Gothic architecture is intrinsically fractal, and has been conjectured to be an externalization of 5 the fractal patterns of our brain’s neural organization (Goldberger, 1996). The parallel between built fractal patterns and possible cerebral organization is too strong to be a coincidence. (Salingaros, 2006)” (Salingaros, Masden, 2006)





Horticulture & Plants

     Horticulture is an art and a science. Studying plants is an integral part of a Holistic Design.  “Growing flowers, fruits, vegetables, trees and shrubs resulting in the development of the minds and emotions of individuals, the enrichment and health of communities and the integration of the `garden' in the breadth of modern civilization.” (Relf, 1992) Many gardens throughout history have been influential for change i.e. the Garden of Eden, the Garden of Gethsemane, and the monastic gardens leading into the Renaissance. “If indeed, the garden does play a vital role in the `grand scheme of things', then horticulturists, as keepers of the garden, need to begin to try to understand the meaning of the garden to people.” (Relf, 1992)

     Studies conducted by Burchett revealed that plants have the ability to clean indoor air in our homes. Many of the items we have in our homes give off Volatile Organic Compounds.  “The Volatile Organic Compounds released by these materials are all toxic and many are carcinogenic according to Burchett so we are definitely better off cleaning the air of them.” (Plants for People, nd)

     Aside from the obvious food uses of plants, they also have hundreds of thousands of medicinal uses and have been a chief source of medicine since early humans. There are many types of gardens, sensory gardens, aromatic gardens, culinary gardens, or medicinal herb gardens. Native gardens are also important to recognize, as they support positive environmental concerns.


Landscaping and the Environment

     Native landscapes are by far the most environmentally friendly but not always the most eye appealing, although this depends entirely on the geographical location. With the amount of landscaping that is being done, especially within the last 15 years, thousands of exotic species have been introduced around the country and the world. Plants have been on the move for millions of years and trying to stop them is not feasible or recommend. Maybe plants know something we don’t and maybe they are trying to tell us something. “When plants were added to this interior space, the participants were more productive (12% quicker reaction time on the computer task) and less stressed (systolic blood pressure readings lowered by one to four units).” (Plants for People, nd)

     Having plants indoors not only cleans the air, studies have shown an improvement in worker productivity, as well as stress reduction in a windowless environment, Lohr, Pearson-Mims, Goodwin, nd. (Plants for People, nd) There is also evidence that supports the use of natural settings for faster healing in hospitals and as a pain relief. This information confirms there is a link between certain informational input “stimuli” and pain reduction. (Salingaros, Masden, 2006) “Human beings are biologically predisposed to require contact with natural forms. Following the arguments of Edward Wilson (1984), people are not capable of living a complete and healthy life detached from nature. By this, Wilson means that we benefit from direct contact with living biological forms, and not the poor substitute we see in so many urban and architectural settings today.” (Salingaros, Masden, 2006)

     Being connected to nature has obvious positive influences on our biological systems, affecting our health and overall wellbeing. “Applying such concepts to architecture leads to two distinct conclusions. First, that we should bring as much of nature as we can into our everyday environments so as to experience it first-hand; and second, that we need to shape our built environment to incorporate those same geometrical qualities found in nature.” (Salingaros, Masden, 2006)

     Essentially landscapes are the perfect mood balancer, just as music can bring you to a far way place, landscapes can offer you a natural way of staying healthy of mind, body and spirit. “One aspect of biophilic architecture, therefore, is the intimate merging of artificial structures with natural structures. This could involve bringing nature into a building, using natural materials and surfaces, allowing natural light, and incorporating plants into the structure.” (Salingaros, Masden, 2006)


Society & Culture

     Society and culture play important roles in Holistic Design. Cultural adaptations will become more popular, as well as societal learning through design. Culture has its place and by considering it we can create environments which enrich our traditions while adding a familiarity to them also. Society can benefit through design that challenge, teach and nurture. Keeping the mind active and not pacifying it, would force people to pay attention or to take responsibility, rather than being enabled to learn bad behaviors.  We have found through neuroscience, that CBT can train the mind, to learn more appropriate behaviors. This is also true with learning bad behaviors. We must be careful not to enable people to be irresponsible. Designs that take the human factor out, run the risk of creating situations that are too easy. Cultural factors could play into this also, therefore changing perceptions and realities. 


Hospitals and Health Care

     One of the most important areas a Holistic Design approach is needed, is within the healthcare industry. It is no secret that gardens make people happy, which is an integral part of making people healthy. “Throughout history, gardens have been used to aid in the healing process - from the Japanese Zen Garden to the Monastic Cloister garden. However, with the advances in medical technology in the 20th century, the use of gardens as healing elements began to diminish. Fortunately with the recent interest in complementary and alternative therapies, which emphasizes healing the whole person, mind, body, and spirit, rather than simply alleviating symptoms, the interest in garden as healer has been revived.” (U of M, nd)

     The latest technology in hospital care is a robot who connects doctors with their patients. Here are two quotes from the company’s website “See how RP-VITA will revolutionize healthcare delivery both now and in the future.” “The RP-VITA® robot was designed to transform the delivery of acute care by expanding the use of remote consults and increasing workflow efficiency.” (In Touch Health, nd)

This type of technology is exactly the opposite of what is needed to provide the proper care for individuals who are sick. Taking the human touch out of the equation is a step backwards. In Touch Health state on their website that this is the “future of health care”.  The use of technology in this case seems to be more concerned with “increasing workflow efficiency” which does nothing for a patient who is ill, most doctors take on more patients than they should. A more adequate way of “increasing workflow efficiency” would be to see less patients and give more care to the patients they have. The psychological effects of this machine undoubtedly prove to delay a speedy recovery. Which takes us back to gardens, “Research has been done showing the therapeutic benefits of gardens. Roger Ulrich, a professor and director of the Center for Health Systems and Design at Texas A & M University, found that viewing natural scenes or elements fosters stress recovery by evoking positive feelings, reducing negative emotions, effectively holding attention / interest, and blocking or reducing stressful thoughts. When viewing vegetation as opposed to urban scenes, test subjects exhibited lower alpha rates which are associated with being wakefully relaxed. Further research by Ulrich showed surgical patients with views of nature had shorter post-operative stays, fewer negative comments from nurses, took less pain medication and experienced fewer minor post-operative complications than those with a view of a brick wall. Although more research is necessary, results based on research thus far indicate the healing effects of natural elements such as gardens.” (U of M, nd) What hospitals need are gardens not robots, there is nothing natural about a robot.

     Here is a hospital that is being built in Dubai that goes against what we already know to be adequate for fast recovery of patients. Although at first glance this hospital looks like it is conscious of a holistic approach, it is not consistent. Beautiful gardens surrounding the hospital, wonderful shops for visitors, restaurants and skylights throughout the common areas. Mustafa K. Abadan, Design Partner for the project, says “The new Sheikh Khalifa Medical City balances the technical demands of a world-class medical center with the psychological wellbeing of its visitors. The design allows for the flexible integration of next generation medical technologies, while the incorporation of amenities, such as trees and hanging gardens coupled with restaurants and retail, provides tranquility, relief and a sense of normalcy for patients and their families.” (Arch Daily, 2012)  Unfortunately when you see a picture of the room, which is where patients will be spending a large majority of their stay, all you see is a vase of flowers in the corner of the room. Overall the room looks quite sterile. It seems the designers have missed the point here. A hospital is for people who are sick and catering more to the visitors, than the patients, seems to be more of a monetary move than solution to comfort the sick. The dining area for visitors has sunlight coming in from skylights and a beautiful atrium, something a huge percentage of patients will never see. According to (Carver, 2012) there are many adaptations of our surroundings that can alter our moods to a more positive level and our mood plays an important part in the healing process as we have seen. “Feeling regulators aren’t intended to send messages about our identities but to help us manage our emotions. Being in a particular desired emotional state can be important for a variety of life’s activities, and emotions can be regulated in a wide variety of ways. You can improve your mood by looking at a picture that reminds you of a time when you were very happy. You can soothe yourself with pictures of tranquil nature scenes and with readily available music playing through a high-quality sound system. A bathtub surrounded by candles and scented oils can be eminently relaxing. And if you’re the sort of person who thrives on excitement, there are plenty of things that can be included in your surroundings to stimulate those feelings, as well.” (Carver, 2012)

      As evidence mounts for the benefits for healing environments health care organizations are listening and incorporating these ideas into designing new buildings. (Zborowsky, R.N., Ph.D., T., Jo Kreitzer, Ph.D., R.N., 2008) What I find interesting is the drug rehabilitation facilities cater more to the needs of the patients than hospitals do. As you can see the bedroom at the Canyon Retreat in Malibu California is far more comforting and visually pleasing than the hospital room in the photo above. Obviously the setting of the rehabilitation center has a more natural landscape, within the mountain valleys of Malibu and sites such as this one are chosen for their beauty and natural surroundings for the sole purpose of creating a healing environment. Not forgetting that these facilities have a higher cost but it is the design we are looking at here.

     Creating a hospital that focuses more closely on the patient, is the future of health care. If we keep creating hospitals like the one in Dubai, sadly I feel we are just wasting huge amounts of money for facilities that don’t make the mark. This is the most important part of designing holistic environments, thoroughly researching and implementing technologies, psychology, and nature while keeping in mind the cultural influences of the patient. This may mean creating different style interiors for a particular culture. Caring for someone in an environment that is more similar to a home than a hospital is the idea. “Michael Hess, healthcare managing principal for Perkins Will’s Chicago healthcare group, emphasizes the close connection between patient-centered design and the bottom line for medical providers. “Patient comfort is a key component, while demand and competition in many markets are significant,” he said. “So healthcare networks are always positioning themselves to capture more patients. Depending on the type of care or specialty, the environment and experience for patients and their families is very important.”” (Wakely, 2010)

     Another important factor we need to keep in mind moving forward is how we use technology in our environments. We need to use it in a way that is useful, while keeping in mind the psychological effect that a technology may have on people.  “Designers can often become caught up with the potential of new technology, pushing its limits but not in the service of its users.” (Molthrop, 2012) A robot taking the place of a doctor, with the belief that it is efficient, without realizing that human touch is what the patient needs to heal.



Offices and the Workplace

     The same design process that is applied to creating a holistic hospital should be used in designing a workplace. Always keeping in mind all the important necessities in order to create an environment that is conducive to work at the same time it has the ability to heal. Work can be stressful at times and depending on the field of work, can be hazardous to your health. You don’t have to be a welder on a skyscraper to create a health hazard either, an office job in some fields, is more stressful and more dangerous to your health.

     An office building in Vancouver, Canada of, Hughes Condon Marler Architects, is a good example of an office that caters to its employee’s psychological needs as well as creating a sustainable building.  “If staff feel a little warm at their desks in HCMA’s renovated light-filled studio, they are able to open a nearby window or even a skylight for a breath of fresh air. Or they can take a break and eat their lunch on the new garden deck complete with organic blue berries, fresh herbs, vegetables and two small apple trees maintained using collected rainwater.” (Kang, 2011) Construction of the office and the materials used inside the building have low levels of volatile organic compounds. The carpet is 20% post-consumer recycled products. “Work stations are made from almost entirely recovered and recycled wood fibre and include such design features as retractable workspaces, wire management, and custom-designed cubby holes and storage for architectural drawings.” (Kang, 2011) The idea that businesses are machines and workers are the force driving profit and production is becoming a thing of the past. “Today, many business experts recognize the significant impact that positive psychology has on not only human resource management in particular, but also corporate culture in general.” (Kang, 2011)



     Where we live, could be the most important environment to design to ensure healthy living. It is where we spend time with our families and where we call home. The Holistic Design approach is no different here. Implementing gardens around our homes can have therapeutic results and in this next example, an architect firm in Milan has come up with what seems to be a great idea. As you can see in the picture, the apartment building is covered in plants. This approach is similar to Biophilic Design, although from a maintenance stand point there are some issues. Maintaining the plants and trees on this building looks to be an arduous task. Being in the plant maintenance business for 10 years, I can tell you that maintaining this building would take more effort than its worth and the objective for sustainability seems to be out of reach in this example. “The leading experts in the biophilic design field hold that “we should bring as much of nature as we can into our everyday environments so as to experience it first-hand; second, we need to shape our built environment to incorporate those same geometrical qualities found in nature” (Molthrop, 2012) So plants are beneficial but we must think of how we will maintain them and whether maintaining them will be possible.

     One type of design for a home that is sustainable and also Biophilic is called an Earthship. An Earthship is a sustainable, passive solar home, made of natural and recycled materials. The design and construction concept of the Earthship was originated by Michael Reynolds of Earthship Biotecture in Taos, NM, with the visionary intent for these homes to be autonomous and everlasting while characteristically aligning with the environment rather than deteriorating it. (Wilson, nd) The idea is to keep things simple but effective and Earthships do just that while also creating positive environments. “Emerging evidence shows that certain sustainable building features, including increased personal control over indoor environmental conditions, access to daylight and views, and connection to nature, are likely to generate positive states of well- being and health.” (U.S. Department of Energy, nd)

     Automobile tires are the most common material used in the construction of Earthships. They are filled with compacted earth to form walls, which creates a brick like thermal mass of steel belted rubber. This combination is not only strong but energy efficient.  (Wilson, nd) I think Earthships are a perfect example of the type of ideas needed to move us into a healthy sustainable future.  This type of construction creates structures that are in harmony with nature or more specifically in harmony within its local environment. They also eliminate the need for centralized public utilities. This construction offers a completely sustainable self-sufficient home.  (Martino, 2013)



     High performance schools are being built around the world. From Elementary schools to Universities, they are either being renovated or newly built using LEED (Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design) and also CHPS (Collaborative for High Performance Schools). These schools have enormous benefits, Higher Test Scores, Increased Average Daily Attendance (ADA), Reduced Operating Costs, Increased Teacher Satisfaction and Retention, Reduced Liability Exposure, and Reduced Environmental Impacts.  (Cool California, nd)

     According to CHPS “Good teachers and motivated students can overcome inadequate facilities and perform at a high level almost anywhere, but a well-designed facility can truly enhance performance and make education more enjoyable and rewarding. Students and teachers shouldn't have to fight against their own classrooms to have a productive learning experience.” (CHPS, nd) Here is a list of the criteria CHPS wants all schools to become Healthy Comfortable, Energy Efficient, Material Efficient, Easy to Maintain and Operate, Commissioned, Environmentally Responsive Site, A Building That Teaches, Safe and Secure, Community Resource, Stimulating Architecture, and Adaptable to Changing Needs. (CHPS, nd) Davis Health and Wellness Center: Davis, CA

“The CHPS National Core Criteria provides a national framework for states and regions wishing to create or update adaptations of the CHPS Criteria. The Core Criteria address indoor environmental quality, energy and water efficiency, site and materials selection, strategies for integration and innovation, and operations and metrics.” (CHPS, nd)

     What is a High Performance School? “A high performance school is designed, constructed, renovated, maintained and operated using a "whole-building" approach, which provides a healthy and comfortable indoor environment, conserves energy, water, and resources.” (Cool California, nd)  They act as tools for teaching and have the ability to adapt to the needs of the students and the community while affording students a safe and secure learning environment. To maximize student performance a high standard is set for air quality with the therapeutic use of natural daylighting.

     Below is a picture of Clemson University’s Lee III, Clemson, SC which incorporates daylighting into its design. “How do you teach students to work together? Design a transparent, open floor plan that prompts natural interaction between students and faculty from varied disciplines, including architecture, art and construction science. Clemson University’s Lee III, which incorporates extensive daylighting, natural ventilation and materials from on-campus sources, is intended to teach sustainable design by example.” (Talbot, nd)


     Twenhofel Middle School in Independence, Ky. (Kenton County) uses “Vital Signs”, a touchscreen computer monitoring system, to show real-time data from the buildings solar PV, geothermal HVAC, rain­water catchment and day lighting systems. Teachers also use this information for teaching science and math. Students are able to interact with the system. This type of learning is very important and teaching young kids the importance of these buildings is essential to sustain ourselves into the future. Creating a building that works as “learning material” is in itself, quite sustainable. (Seibert, nd)

     This building received a LEED Silver Award; ENERGY STAR label 2007, 2008; National District of the Year Award, and National Education Energy Development (NEED) Project” (Seibert, nd) “Students lead tours of their school, explaining to visitors how daylight harvesting illuminates their classrooms, how the geothermal HVAC system draws energy from the earth, how solar panels impact the electric grid and how much rainwater is collected from the roof to flush toilets and water the school’s athletic fields.” (Seibert, nd)


Innovations & Solutions

     To create innovations and solutions we must pull from the areas discussed in this paper. One of the interesting challenges while designing or creating great spaces is taking into consideration what “the realities” are of those designs. Think about a kitchen or bathroom in a house. What makes a kitchen or bathroom practical? One aspect that comes to mind is the ease of cleaning it. Most restaurants kitchens and bathrooms have a drain in the floor to make cleaning easier. I have never seen this in a house, maybe an expensive house but it is not at all common. It’s a simple addition and would add very little cost. It could be hidden so it’s not an eyesore. So why do we not have them? Might be cultural, I have seen drains in bathrooms in the Philippines. So in this instance “the reality” of a kitchen or bathroom without a drain in the floor makes for more difficult cleaning. Although this is a simple idea it could be quite advantageous. Another area that was brought to my attention recently was bathroom sinks with sensors. These sensors limit the water use and are used to make sure water faucets are turned off. Thinking about this you probably can’t find anything wrong, maybe there slightly annoying when the don’t turn on and that is due to poor design but there is something deeper that is happening from using these type of faucets. One of the most important things about design that I have identified is the risk of coddling society. By taking away the responsibility of turning off a faucet, we are enabling people to be irresponsible. Although it may ensure the water is turned off, it does an injustice to how our society looks at water conservation. A solution that could solve this is a sink that has a sensor which detects water flow which is connected to a small computer. If after someone washes his/her hands and does not turn off the water the computer can activate and a voice can speak to the person. By having a computer directly address you in front of other people or even alone, you would most likely turn off the water because you look foolish otherwise. Changing the behavior, not enabling it, would be the proper way to solve this. It is actually a form of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). For the few that don’t turn off the water it could be made to stop after a certain time. So creating designs that challenge us is equally important.


Concept Home Design

Here is a concept that I have been working on for a home that incorporates high tech materials with innovative design, creating a self-sustaining ecologically and psychologically friendly structure. This picture of a dome is essentially how the structure will look. Imagine a home constructed of Texlon®, a material that has a wide variety of benefits including outstanding insulation properties, and it is chemically inert and has an exceptionally long life. (VF,nd) It is a transparent polymer known as ethylene tetra fluoro ethylene (ETFE). Take the inner workings of an Earthship (see photo in Homes section above) and apply them to this structure. Incorporate an Aquaponics system that can assist in generating fertilizer, cleaning water, and providing food. Aquaponics is a combination of fish breeding and farming in one. A moat could go around the structure and plants could be grown around the perimeter of the house. Indoor systems could tap into the water supply and indoor herbs and vegetables could also be grown while providing a natural indoor environment. With plenty of sunlight all year round plants would have no problem growing indoors. The walls of the dome could be two ply and to heat water the wall could fill up and use the Suns heat for a natural thermal source. The dome could also assist in rain water recovery, as the water would run down the dome into the Aquaponics system, i.e. the moat that surrounds the perimeter of the structure. Another feature that could be incorporated into the dome would be solar panels and wind turbines. An automatic tint could also be incorporated between the two ply dome walls for privacy using a technology similar to Dynamic Glass® ( By using a dome shape with Texlon® this structure would be able to withstand winds of 180 miles per. This home is Safe, Durable, Practical, Innovative, Eco Friendly, it has a Health Conscious Design, it is Self-Sustaining, and creates an environment that is Interactive and also Educational. This home integrates all the ideas that have been discussed into a high-tech Earthship and uses simple design, while incorporating many neurologically beneficial features as well.



“Among other things, they’re taking to heart ideas from environmental psychology, sociology, geography, architecture, landscape architecture, interior design, nursing, medicine, and public health research that demonstrate how specific design changes in health care environments can reduce stress and alleviate the physical outcomes associated with it.” “But what exactly contributes to a healing environment? The answer is complex in part because it can vary based on a person’s culture and preferences.” (Zborowsky, R.N., Ph.D., T., Jo Kreitzer, Ph.D., R.N., 2008)

     As you can see there are many factors that make up design and unless we address them all, we may in fact be programing society to behave in ways that are counterproductive to a sustainable world. The possibility of creating environments that don’t really heal or workplaces that create as many issues as they address. “Realities” of design must be researched and improvements made as needed. Healing environments should heal, schools should challenge and teach, workspaces should challenge and inspire us, and homes should comfort us at the same time sustain local ecological systems. Buildings should blend with nature and maximize the footprint it casts, for this a Biophilic design is a great place to start. There has to be a balance. As much as I think LEED is of good intention, I feel they are missing a component of great significance. Challenging people to be better through design and knowing when to challenge them is what Holistic Design considers. It is something I call Vibration Zero, which is anything that creates a perfect balance.


  To design the future effectively, you must first let go of your past.” ~ Charles J. Givens




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