SPACE (Supportive Environments for Physical and Social Activity, Healthy Aging and Cognitive Health), from Queens University Belfast (QUB) & Involve ran a workshop in September 2023 for invited key stakeholders and practitioners to better understand how our environment affects our mental and physical health; and importantly, what we can do to improve it.

Roisin attended as a practitioner; an architect with expertise in sustainable design and an interest in healthy living.

The report, linked, states:

“Environmental factors such as air quality, green space, congestion, noise, and other pollutants can contribute to poorer health outcomes, especially as we age. Often concentrated in areas of deprivation, these factors can widen health inequalities too. We know that the causes are complex, and the solutions are even more complex.”

As Passive House architects, interested in the health & well-being of people, we are all too aware of how the built – and natural – environment affects our work productivity, our health, and our mental state.  QUB had the data to back up how poor air quality can have an impact on our long term health.  With the obvious link between poor air quality and lung conditions / disease, we were surprised to learn that poor air quality is linked holistically to all types of health conditions, especially as we age.   As kidney research is the most developed in NI, it was insightful to hear that poor air quality is also linked to kidney disease.  The learning here is that the oxygen we breathe, and therefore the toxins, permeates our whole body.

The point of the workshops, therefore, was to brainstorm how, as leaders, we can influence change.  And sustainability was a key metric that ran throughout the workshops.  For example: if we reduce car use, we then walk more, so we become more active, which helps our mental and physical health, which improves air quality, which allows for less roads, which means more green space, which helps air quality….


If we improve the thermal performance of our houses, we live in warmer, more comfortable environments, our mental & physical health improves, we have more money to spend on good quality food, so our health improves; there is less reliance on oil fired central heating, which improves air quality, which helps our health, which in turn reduces the burden on the health service.  Its all very connected, really!

If you would like to read the report, or read more research from SPACE, click here.