Planning and Design Impact on Diseases

Architects and designers are the main role in any construction and became more needed as the industry grows. They have always tried to come up with sustainable designs to avoid any unhealthy spaces generated by the integration of natural air and proper ventilation. In this research, people have turned into healthcare systems to seek urgent treatment and protection that most likely to be insufficient during any major outbreak and it can be shown from big cities who have been hit the most by COVID-19. Infectious diseases were not the only outbreak in the last years, as history shown that such events might occur in the future. The study suggests utilizing an infectious disease surveillance system which can be integrated into our building design to avoid any future outbreak might occur. A study published by (Wang, Jin, Xiong, Tu, & Ye, 2017) discussed the importance of early warning of diseases outbreak and infectious disease surveillance data for disease prevention and control. Community-based surveillance is one of the essential according to target site especially in high-risk population areas (Lan, Zhou, Zhang, & Lai, 2017).

South Korea emission of NO2 after and before COVID-19 outbreak
Sentinel-5P, 1 Feb–17 Mar 2019

Design regulations pay more attention to fire alarms and emergency exits rather than healthcare and disease surveillance. As the population grows, transportations and buildings advance in developed countries which puts the risk of infectious outbreaks anytime. This study suggests the integration of surveillance and monitoring systems in and future or existing design to reduce the numbers of future outbreaks and to save lives. Although sustainable design is an essential factor to improve any space’s design, there is a need regulation that enables the use of healthcare guidelines into our design. It is evident that the expansion of transportation and population have increased the spread of viral diseases in a very short time, which is why we need urgent attention to our healthcare systems.

COVID-19 Outbreak Reduced Pollution

The coronavirus recent outbreak shut most businesses, quarantined people in their homes and closed boarders between continents. The latest evident indicated that the pollution, CO2, and NO2 emission level reduced to 40% as many are locked down to avoid the spread of the virus (“Coronavirus pandemic leading to huge drop in air pollution | Environment | The Guardian,” n.d.). The reports from China, South Korea, Europe and the USA showed that the NO2 “a toxic gas which causes significant inflammation of the airways” has reduced to 10-30% than normal. The Guardian posted several illustrations of satellite images to prove how the outbreak slashed the world pollution.

Pollution levels in China in 2019, left, and 2020.
Source: Guardian Visuals / ESA satellite data.jpg

WHO said that the pollution from cars engines and power plants increased the NO2 which is a vector for pathogens and many health problems. The World Health Organization is also investigating whether the increasing in pollution has a major impact that made the COVID-19 more virulent.

Other experts explained that it’s too early to confirm that the lockdown and the dropping of air pollution will offset the mortality of COVID-19 or any future health problems(“expert reaction to drop in air pollution because of COVID-19 | Science Media Centre,” n.d.). But these data show how the future will be if we reduced the use of cars and used modern technology, experts say. In the UK, there is the UK Centre for Ecology & Hydrology (UKCEH)That monitors the ammonia but the monitoring of our carbon dioxide is placed in central London to track the emission. It only shows that there are only a few attempts to track future health problems by non-profit organizations while we need considerable action in this manner.

NO2 pollution before and after the outbreak of COVID-19 in France
NO2 pollution before and after the outbreak of COVID-19 in Italy

It is a known fact that developed countries produced a large amount of pollution as the industry is wider. The authority’s restrictions and curfews during the virus outbreak caused a dramatic improvement in air quality from the same time one year ago and in the past few weeks (Todorović, n.d.). Therefore, the air becomes cleaner above large cities and regions that heavily loaded with factories and power plants. Cities like Milan, Paris, and Madrid that have been hit hardly by the infectious disease showed a huge drop in NO2 as the economy and transportation activities at a bare minimum due to the government restriction to limit the spread of COVID-19. The statistics showed that people are 84% likely to die in areas with higher air pollution than other especially those with chronic diseases.

Infectious Diseases and Transports

The expansion of transport networks has a major impact on the global spread of diseases and made the world connected by air, sea, and land easily. There are few downsides of the global expansion of transportation which are infectious diseases, pandemics, vector invasion events and vector-borne pathogen importation (Tatem, Rogers, & Hay, 2006). Within a few months, the COVID-19 extent from Wuhan-China to all parts of the world that shows how easily can a disease sweep the continentals than ever before. Infectious such as the global influenza pandemics, the devastating Anopheles gambiae invasion of Brazil, Plasmodium falciparum malaria cases and recently COVID-19. As the economy grows, human mobility in high-income countries, the volume, and speed of travel are unprecedented. It began with the commercial aviation put people at the risk of new strains of familiar diseases, or from new one; the last five centuries have seen more infectious diseases than ever before (Karlen, 1995).

The history showed that over the past 500 years, the establishment of worldwide transport networks has facilitated pandemics diseases such as Plague, Cholera, Influenza, HIV/AIDS, SARS, Bioterrorism, Malaria, Dengue, and Yellow Fever. The research (Tatem et al., 2006) highlighted that despite the type of transport, the potential of disease emergence and spread can happen very quickly as modern transportation makes the control of infections and quarantine increasingly irrelevant and we must expect more of communicable pandemics. It is suggested to have more predictable information like temporal variations in passengers number and quantifying the relative importance of all types of transports for disease movement.

A National Active Transportation Strategy can Reduce Chronic Diseases & Health Care Costs
Source: cape.ca

In the same line, the rapid development and economic growth in central Africa showed the risk of infectious diseases. Despite the positive outcomes from these changes, the region became more vulnerable to future outbreaks (Munster et al., 2018). Relying on the previous outbreak of the Ebola virus, the research mentioned that urban and mobile populations are among the factors which might enable the virus to spread even quicker than before putting the risk of many lives in danger. Researchers predicted that by 2030 Central Africa will use more accessible routes, mining and hydroelectric industries and road constructions which not only affect the ecosystem but also increase the opportunity for new infectious diseases and quicker outbreaks. These are clear signs that rapid and unplanned development can destroy the ecosystem and any demographic-economic changes conspire to cause major outbreaks in both national and international level.

When we talk about the COVID-19 outbreak, we notice how quickly this virus spread globally with a few months of the first case in China. Notwithstanding the previous scenarios with the many outbreaks, we can imply that governments have not prepared properly for such incidents. Bill Gates in his popular talk on TEDx in 2015 discussed that the world is not ready for the next epidemic and that he predicted such an outbreak can kill many if it ignored (Gates, 2015). The questions arise here is that why we don’t pay further attention to the scientific facts that derived from history and experience? Why we need more lives to be taken to establish a stronger foundation to deal with such events? Bill Gates is one of many environmentalists who brought up this topic but yet little efforts have been made. He further talked about how little we invest in healthcare systems while we rapidly grow the industry, and that only the beginning of a series of pandemics if we stay unprepared (TED Connects, 2020).

Healthy Cities

When we discuss diseases and factors that affect humans, we cannot isolate architecture and the built environment. Over the years, architecture has been one of the most growing elements in the cities and any country development is measured by it, the fact that most countries are proud of the development and the rapid growth of their businesses. Healthy cities are continually creating and enhancing the physical activities and social environments that to expand resources that enable people to support each other and maximizing their potential. WHO listed the aims of a healthy city:

  • To create a health-supportive environment
  • To achieve a good quality air
  • To provide basic sanitation and hygiene needs
  • To supply access to health care

That being said, it is essential to provide good infrastructure to achieve this level of a healthy city rather than focusing on improving the political, economic and social arenas(“WHO | Healthy Cities,” 2019)

Galway Healthy Cities, which has been a member of the World Health Organization (WHO) European Healthy Cities since 2006, aims to establish an effective program that puts the health and social-economic and political agenda of all agencies. One of their main themes is to strengthen communities by building supportive healthy urban planning and design that includes housing and regeneration and so on(Galway Healthy Cities Projects, 2018). Although the organization’s main aim is Galway City, it purposes an initiative framework that helps designers to promote urban planning and tackling public health priorities.

The research of (Davies & Kelly, 2014) highlighted the importance of healthy cities and the need for multiple instruments to evaluate the strategies, the research also talked about the qualitative non-oriented approaches to evaluate the outcome. It was until the nineteenth century that realizes how important the provision of roads, housing and water supplies and the focus of medical attention in a modern way; the rapid industrial revolution and urbanization that resulted in human factory waster and pollution.