What architects can do to ease the PTSD of veterans

For veterans with PTSD, the realities of war are no longer at their doorstep, but the lasting impact of war’s trauma impacts life on a daily basis. So researchers are looking for ways to make architecture more accommodating for veterans with PTSD. 

Especially these days, we’re all spending a lot of time in our homes and architectural choices can reduce PTSD triggers for veterans. A group of researchers from Texas A&M University worked with hundreds of veterans with PTSD to identify tangible architectural choices that could make them more comfortable in their own homes. Here’s what they found to be effective in bringing a sense of ease. 

  1. Windows: Large windows closer to the ground are most comforting and many veterans preferred to have lots of windows for a full view of what’s going on outside. 
  2. Entrance and exit: Easily visible exit and entrance points helped keep participants from feeling trapped in a space. 
  3. Walkways and hallways: The increased maneuverability of larger hallways and walkways was valuable as it reduced feelings of confinement and lowered the chance of touching other people.
  4. Open floor plans: Having a full view of their living space allowed veterans to keep an eye on their surroundings and reduce sharp turns and blind corners which caused stress.
  5. Greenspace: Greenspace has long been linked to calmness and happiness. Open spaces with vegetation helped veterans feel soothed and increased visibility. 
  6. Interior design: It’s not easy to change the physical structure of a building, but design choices like reducing the amount of furniture and painting walls with vivid colors helped residents feel more at ease. 
  7. Ambient design: Beyond furniture and construction, lots of natural light, good ventilation, and low noise levels were also big factors for those with PTSD. Many participants cited soundproofing as a critical component to comfort. 

Understanding what aspects of our built environment are most conducive for veterans living with PTSD can help us create building codes and policies with veterans in mind. It is estimated that 30 percent of all Vietnam veterans and up to 20 percent of Iraq veterans experience PTSD. This new research can help accommodate those who served their country and inform the decisions of organizations like Veterans Affairs and health facilities to better meet the needs of veterans and others with PTSD around the world.

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