We have known for a while that trees provide many valuable services, like air filtration, carbon dioxide absorption, and also making people feel less stressed. In a recent report by the UK Green Building Council (GBC) on Healthy Homes, it was clear that trees and well-designed green spaces help us flourish and can even get us to walk more.
Now, a new study by researchers at the University of Chicago tells us that living near trees is quantifiably better for our health, a powerful message that will help inform the WorldGBC’s upcoming report on healthy homes, set to be released in January 2017.
Dr. Omid Kardan and his team used a public dataset of over 530,000 public trees in Toronto, categorized by species, location, and tree diameter, as well as satellite imagery of non-public trees and the health records of over 30,000 Torontonians, including self-reported health problems and prevalence of cancer, diabetes, mental health problems and more. They determined that, on average:
- having 10 more trees on a city block improves health perception comparable with a $10,000 USD higher median income or being 7 years younger and
- the addition of 11 trees could decrease the incidence of heart disease, stroke, diabetes, obesity, and more comparable to an increase in annual personal income of $20,000 USD and moving to a neighborhood with a $20,000 USD higher median income or being 1.4 years younger.
The study stresses that the results are “correlational”, in that they cannot precisely define the ways trees improve health, but the benefits of trees and greenery are clear in the places people live, work, and shop – trees really do make Better Places for People.
We have seen this numerous times in our past reports and case studies produced as part of the Better Places for People Campaign:
- In the British Land Headquarters at York House, in London England, 800 plants were added after their office refurbishment to clean the air, lower stress, and generally enhance health and wellbeing
- The Bioconstrucción y Energía Alternativa Head Office in Monterrey, Mexico was designed to ensure the landscaped surroundings, green wall, green roofs, rooftop garden, and herb garden were accessible to all and the exterior was visible at all work stations
- LendLease recently added a green wall to their new HQ in Sydney, Australia as a way to improve air quality, reduce headaches, and improve worker productivity
- At the Ecclesall Road Marks & Spencer in Sheffield, England, employees reported that they liked their lunch room specifically because it had views of the exterior
Policymakers and business minded-peoples alike are realizing the health and economic benefits of nature and thanks to Dr. Kardan’s study, we are beginning to better quantify the impact of how trees and nature impact where we live. It just shows that when we design for people, we do not compromise health and wellbeing, we create better places.
Elspeth Holland is Research Assistant at World Green Building Council