Healthy buildings, Healthy Cities Lab – a pioneering research initiative from South Africa

The impact of buildings on human health is profound, and has a direct cost impact on performance and output for its users. In May this year, we launched the Healthy Buildings, Healthy Cities Lab (HBHC) to support research and approaches to design thinking on the current COVID-19, and on related disease burdens in South Africa and globally.

The HBHC Lab is a collaboration between the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), the SARChI Chair in Spatial Transformation (Positive Change in the Built Environment) and the Tshwane University of Technology (TUT). The objective of the lab is to support and develop Healthy Building design guidelines, coursework and curricula in South Africa. Currently, there is no healthy building laboratory in South Africa. The CSIR and TUT are partnering to drive this new frontier in construction and design at building and city level. The initiative is directly aligned with the CSIR Smart Places Cluster output and skill set and will enable researchers to develop course work, presentations and disseminate knowledge.

The ground-breaking research lab was launched with the first Healthy Buildings, Healthy Cities (HBHC) symposium hosted by the Pretoria Institute of Architects and co-ordinated by Dr Jako Nice (CSIR) and Prof Amira Osman (TUT). The international line up of speakers included: Dr Gwynne Mhuireach (University of Oregon, USA), Prof Peter Russell (Tsinghua University, China), Mr Philip Astley (University of London, UK) and Prof Magda Mostafa (The American University of Cairo, Egypt). The symposium explored the integration of health-related concepts into the traditional architectural tertiary education, building landscape and city making. An integration that is core to changing the paradigm and skill that the current and next generation of architects require. 

The research themes and intended outcomes of the HBHC Lab are listed below.

Research Themes

  1. Climate & Health impact on the built environment
  2. Built Environment Technology applications in assessing buildings, neighbourhoods and cities
  3. Buildings and Health meta-studies
  4. Appropriate Ventilation solutions
  5. Re-Imaging future architecture with increased urbanization – healthy cities and buildings
  6. Core elements
    • Air Quality, Ventilation, Lighting, Sound, Water quality, Safety, Moisture, Thermal environment, spatial metrics, people
    • Building Microbiomes


  1. Healthy Building policies for South African buildings, neighbourhoods and cities,
  2. Architecture publications for Africa and South Africa
  3. Development of a healthy building course for post-graduate Architecture students
  4. Development knowledge and transfer critical need scarce skill to the next generation of building designers
  5. Masters and Doctorate aligned research projects

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