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How Building Design can Enhance Wellbeing and Cognition

In the world of education, the impact of building design extends far beyond aesthetics. It plays a crucial role in shaping the experiences and outcomes for both staff and students. The design of learning spaces is not just about creating visually appealing buildings, it’s key to nurturing the wellbeing and cognitive growth of those who use them. 

The evolution of building design in educational settings mirrors trends seen in other industries. For instance, biophilic design, which integrates natural elements into the built environment, has gained popularity in offices. This approach is aimed at enhancing mood and productivity, among other things, and is now a cornerstone in creating dynamic and effective working environments.

Understanding the transformative power of building design in educational environments is crucial. In schools, colleges and universities, even small design changes can significantly impact both staff and students every day. At Barker, we have extensive experience in the education sector and have seen firsthand how the right projects can make a huge difference. We provide architecture and design services that focus on enhancing learning environments, and we can support you from concept to completion.

As we delve deeper into this topic, we will explore the effects of building design on wellbeing and cognition. We will discuss strategies for improving interior design, highlighting how thoughtful choices can create more effective, engaging and nurturing educational spaces.

The Impact of Building Design on Wellbeing

The physical environment where people work and learn plays a significant role in shaping mental and emotional wellbeing. For staff and students in educational settings, the design of their surroundings can be a critical factor in their day-to-day experience. For instance, a well-thought-out design can foster a sense of calm and focus in classrooms, leading to reduced stress and increased productivity. 

It’s about more than just creating a visually pleasing interior design, it’s about transforming a space into somewhere that supports the general wellbeing of those working or learning in it. Whether it’s through the use of natural light to energise staff and students or calming colour palettes to reduce anxiety levels, each element of building design can contribute to a more positive environment. Ultimately, a learning environment should be more than “fit for purpose”, it should be an enjoyable place to spend time.


The Impact of Building Design on Cognition 

In addition to wellbeing, the physical design of a learning environment significantly influences cognitive functions. A study by The University of Salford revealed that well-designed classrooms can boost learning progress in primary school pupils by up to 16% in a single year. This research underscores the impact thoughtful interior design can have, not just on day-to-day learning in the classroom, but also on the long-term educational outcomes for students at every stage of their academic journey. 

Elements such as room layout, colour and acoustics play a pivotal role in creating the learning experience, and can directly impact learning progress. From removing visual distractions to improving indoor air quality, all educational institutions should consider the cognitive aspects of building design in their maintenance and renovation plans. 


Enhancing Wellbeing and Cognition Through Interior Design

Enhancing wellbeing and cognition through interior design is about crafting spaces that are both aesthetically pleasing and also supportive of learning and comfort. This process involves careful consideration of various elements, each playing a unique role in creating a nurturing and supportive environment for both staff and students; 

  • Natural Lighting – Using natural lighting is essential in education settings. Sunlight can help to improve mood and concentration, making it key to a productive learning environment. You will have a reduced dependency on artificial lighting too, which can be harsh and cause migraines. However, supporting natural lighting with high-quality LED lights can provide the best of both worlds at all times of the year. 
  • Colour Psychology – The choice of colours in an educational space is more than a matter of personal preference, it’s a strategic decision that can influence the atmosphere in the classroom. Calming and soothing colours, such as soft blues and greens, can help to create a tranquil and positive atmosphere, reducing anxiety and promoting concentration among students and staff. 
  • Ergonomic Furniture – Comfort can be easy to overlook, but it’s crucial in a learning environment. Ergonomic chairs and desks support good posture and provide long-lasting comfort during the school day. Investing in high-quality furniture can reduce physical strain, which in turn can enhance focus. From primary schools to universities, ergonomics is important. 
  • Acoustic Design – Acoustic considerations are vital in minimising noise and distractions, which are common issues in busy educational settings. Implementing acoustic panels and sound-absorbing materials into the interior design can significantly improve the auditory environment. This helps create a more peaceful and focused learning space and also improves comprehension and communication. 
  • Biophilic Design – Bringing elements of nature into educational spaces, such as indoor plants or natural materials, connects staff and students with the natural world. This connection has been shown to reduce stress and boost creativity, among other benefits, making biophilic design an important aspect of interior design in any setting. There is a wide range of ways to bring the outdoors into the classroom.
  • Temperature Control – A comfortable temperature is crucial to maintaining an optimal learning environment. Similarly, high-quality indoor air and an adequate supply of fresh air are important. Effective temperature control systems and ventilation systems ensure that spaces are comfortable no matter what the weather, preventing distractions that can hinder the learning process. 
  • Clutter-Free Spaces – Organised and clutter-free spaces contribute to a sense of order and calm. This is especially important in educational environments where focus and attention are paramount. Removing clutter can enhance the efficiency of learning and teaching processes too, allowing both students and staff to use the space more effectively for a variety of activities.
  • Community Areas – Creating communal spaces, like libraries or common areas, within educational institutions fosters a sense of belonging and community. These spaces provide opportunities for social interaction, collaboration and relaxation, enhancing the overall educational experience. Providing informal spaces enables students to prioritise their wellbeing throughout the day too. 

Each of these key features of interior design plays a critical role in shaping the learning environment, directly impacting the wellbeing and cognitive function of those working or learning there. You can find out more about how to create inspirational spaces that can help the recruitment and retention of staff, as well as positively impact educational outcomes and wellbeing by watching Barker’s video on the topic. 

Working With Education Property Consultants

All in all, it’s important to prioritise building design in the education sector. Creating an optimal environment can improve learning outcomes and the happiness of staff and students. As a leading education property consultant, Barker offers a comprehensive range of architecture and design services. We have the expertise required to help schools, colleges and universities transform their buildings into inspiring, sustainable spaces. Our end-to-end project delivery service ensures a seamless improvement of educational environments.

For educational institutions looking to elevate their buildings, we will be happy to discuss your needs in more detail. With the right estate strategy plan, you can enhance both wellbeing and cognition through thoughtful design. This isn’t just an investment in infrastructure, but an investment in the future of education. To learn more about how our experienced team at Barker can assist in this transformative journey, contact us today.

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