HEDQF Edinburgh Conference places design at the heart of wellbeing in Higher Education

Over 170 delegates from across the UK heard, at a high-level conference held at Edinburgh University, heard that design is at the heart of wellbeing in Higher Education and that wellbeing, community and caring have become integral to the Scottish public discourse.

The fifth annual conference of The Higher Education Design Quality Forum (HEDQF) emphasised that designing for wellbeing is the current big issue in the university sector.

HEDQF is an independent organisation which promotes high quality design across university campuses, buildings and facilities in the knowledge that this enhances teaching, learning, research and public engagement.

Julian Robinson, Chairman of HEDQF and Director of Estates, London School of Economics, said, “An increasing body of evidence indicates that design for the built environment impacts on our mental health and wellbeing.

“HEDQF is a charity run by volunteers united by a passion for excellent design and a conviction that great design leads to better outcomes, whether related to the learning environment, the creation of inspirational and memorable university experiences or better mental health and wellbeing.”

Jim MacDonald, Chief Executive of Architecture and Design Scotland, presented a keynote presentation on why wellness is important and the role of the built environment.

“Wellbeing and kindness have become integral to the Scottish public discourse,” he said.

“The recent revision of Scotland’s national performance framework and set of national outcomes as a means to frame public policy was made specifically to include the ideal of overall wellbeing as a purpose of government.

“This was born out of a recognition that working towards shared outcomes across the public sector and beyond was galvanising and energising and its success demanded the involvement of the widest possible number of people.

“While the benefits of well-designed environments has long been understood, what is new is the grasping and embracing of that recognition by policymakers and the seeking to join up the different arms of government in order to deliver those benefits through investment that will help shape the country.”

Mr MacDonald concluded by emphasising that collaboration in the design process must be as wide as possible.

The conference included a wide range of presentations looking at different aspects of this important subject from the University of Edinburgh, the University of Glasgow, the SRUC, Marie Dariel, Bennetts Associates, BuroHappold, Scott Brownrigg, Page\Park, Max Fordham, Will & Partners, HawkinsBrown, Penoyre and Prasad, KSS and Artiq Art Consultancy, along with the initial results of a recent survey of over 1000 students commissioned by HEDQF and presentations and discussions with students from the Edinburgh School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture.

In concluding, Julian Robinson reiterated the need for university clients and designers to thoughtfully embrace wellness in their designs. Staff and students in universities are under great pressure and good-quality building and landscapes can make a difference to academic life, with much to be learnt from other sectors.

See the full event report for further information.  Event images to follow shortly