Designing For Neurodiversity in WELL Building

Designing For Neurodiversity in WELL Building

Four US Surgeons General and Rachel Hodgdon of WELL, photo by Susie Frazier

Neurodiversity and Design Roundtable: Incorporating Sensory Well-Being Into The WELL Building Standard. (Read the full story at USA TODAY.)

A roundtable discussion on neurodiversity and design at the International WELL Building Institute’s recent WELL Summit has presented four new design features that support sensory wellbeing for everyone. These features are slated for inclusion in the next version of the WELL Building Standard, a system of holistic evidence-based building and organizational strategies that, when implemented, can improve human health and well-being. 

The WELL Summit was held on September 25 and 26 in Washington, D.C., and was attended by four Surgeons General, globally renowned experts and industry pioneers who networked, discussed and celebrated the influence of the built environment on the health and wellbeing of all people. The Neurodiversity and Design Roundtable, held on the second day of the summit, was attended by Susie Frazier, WELL AP, a U.S.-based biophilic designer, author and WELL Faculty member.  

Studies have shown that humans are all neurodiverse from each other, each experiencing and interpreting the environment around them differently. On this continuum, around 80% of people are classed as “neurotypical”, while around 15% to 20% are considered outliers, likely to experience hyper- or hyposensitivity to their surroundings due to the natural way their brain processes information. People who may have been diagnosed with conditions such as autism spectrum disorder (ASD), attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and dyslexia may be more prone to environmental stimuli. The proposed new features are intended to support sensory well-being for everyone, no matter what label or diagnosis a person may have been given.  

Frazier, whose design practices are rooted in her own experiences with ADHD and generalized anxiety, says this means that built spaces, such as homes and workplaces, will soon have guidelines for incorporating design elements that allow individuals to better regulate their own sensory health, preventing issues such as overstimulation or too much isolation. 

According to Frazier, a Neurodiversity and Design Charrette Group emerged within the WELL community in late 2022, seeking to investigate which new features of the built environment could be introduced that support the wide range of sensory thresholds among people. The group’s thinking about the design choices of the built environment was seen through the lens of sensory awareness, which is something she has been writing and speaking about since 2018, when she first published her book, Designing For Wellness

During the roundtable, Dr Angelita Scott, Director and Community Concept Lead for the WELL Building Standard and WELL Equity Lead at the International WELL Building Institute (IWBI) shared the four new design features of the built environment that WELL is preparing to implement into the next version of its Building Standard and Equity Rating. These aim to educate those in the design and construction industries to consider innovating around these features which support individuals’ sensory health, no matter what label, diagnosis, or personal circumstances they may be facing.  

Read the specific features being proposed and the rest of the story here

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