Infographic: How Architecture Can Save Your Life

Architects wield more power than you think over your mental and physical well-being. A new interactive chart reveals just how much.

Design doesn’t just impact lives, or enrich lives. It can save them. That is the message the American Institute of Architects (AIA) is trying to emphasize in a new interactive graphical chart that shows the ways in which the choices architects make can affect our lives.


We all live in buildings, and it is the geometry of these structures, where they are placed and the shadows they cast that have the largest impact on the well-being of their inhabitants. Yet not all architects are conscientious of the way even the smallest design decision can impact people’s physical and mental health.

Beautifully designed by Link Studio, the interactive chart is called “Designing Communities, Shaping Health” and shows the myriad ways in which careful decision-making during the architecture design process can positively impact life. Scrolling over the graphic, various hotspots light up around objects like windows, staircases, ducts, and staircases; clicking on these objects will explain their import.

For example, click on the blueprint on the wall and you’ll learn that buildings that have methods of on-site food production (like community gardens) promote not only healthy nutrition in its inhabitants, but also community cohesion. Click on the stairs and you’ll learn that maybe not all buildings benefit from an elevator: people who climb at least twenty floors per week have a 20% lower risk of stroke or death than elevator-goers. Checking out the desk warns that the materials you choose in your design can have a profound impact on mental health, and toxins have even been known to trigger aggressive behavior in that building’s inhabitants. And so on.

“Like a light bulb, this graphic can illuminate an ‘aha’ moment, leading to greater awareness of the direct link between design and public health issues,” says Robert Ivy, the AIA’s CEO. “Though often overlooked, carefully considered design decisions and building materials selections can have profound impacts on health and well-being.”

Once you know to look, the AIA’s chart makes a compelling point that its members aren’t just the architects of our buildings. They are often the architects of our happiness and unhappiness as well. That’s an important power everyone–especially its wielders–should take pains to understand.