January 10, 2022

Happy homes for happy people

With our homes being a central driver of happiness, a cross-expertise team from Henning Larsen, Ramboll and The Happiness Research Institute is currently investigating what domestic surroundings really mean for people’s well-being.

By Martin Christiansen
When travellers arrived at Copenhagen airport, they used to be greeted by Carlsberg welcoming them to the happiest country in the world.
Whiles the Danes may well be happy people, it can hardly be credited to the beverage of choice. However, evidence exists that our home plays a significant role in living happy lives. In Denmark or elsewhere.
The way architects, planners and engineers design residential areas contributes significantly to people’s and societies life satisfaction, hence making a building of four walls much more than a physical construct. This only increasing when the corona pandemic forced everybody to spend more time in and around their homes and neighbourhoods.
Now, Ramboll, Henning Larsen, and The Happiness Research Institute wants to fully grasp the home-happiness correlation and investigate how the physical and architectural design influences happiness.
Towards happy homes
The Happiness Research Institute in Copenhagen has undertaken studies which highlight that 15% of our happiness comes from our homes but the preliminary work suggests a number north of that, if at all quantifiable.
In a project called Happy Homes funded by Realdania and The Ramboll Foundation, the partners have started collecting and analysing insights from both Denmark and UK residents. This allows for distilling cross-cutting themes.
Christine Lunde Rasmussen, a social sustainability expert in Ramboll’s Management Consulting division explains:
- We are eager to find how a home – understood as the private sphere as well as the connection between the private and the community - supports well-being for families and individuals. What are the constituents of happiness in this context? What does the architectural design mean for a home and for the community at large?
- We know that happy people live longer, healthier lives. Also, they are more productive and socially engaged. All of these are key parts of creating sustainable societies where both people and nature flourish. Therefore, this exploratory work is very much Ramboll DNA.
Row houses in focus
The project team uses row-houses – also known as terraced houses - as the case study for adding empirical data to the equation. This special type of housing accounts for 15% of all homes in Denmark and 30% in the UK. Focusing solely on row houses is not only for ease of comparison but because they are a popular urban typology.
Ofri Earon, Head of Living from Henning Larsen Architects elaborates:
- The row-houses are one of the most interesting housing typologies. They are compact and dense, which is positive for the urban context. And at the same time, they offer a small piece of garden and good opportunities to socialise with the neighbours. Learning from the row-house typology will allow us to reflect on how we can build better residential areas in the future, row-house or other typologies.
Gorana Shepherd, Director for Cities and Regeneration at Ramboll, agrees to the interesting characteristics of this type of built where the neighbour is no more than a layer of bricks away:
- Terraced house is a traditional and much-loved housing typology in the UK, she says.
- We cannot imagine a UK city without it and adding to the abundance of traditional terraced houses, new developments are consistently being built in the UK. This comparative research between Denmark and the UK will enable us to understand how to design for wellbeing and happiness of residents and advise our clients how to construct neighbourhoods which allow for happy communities.
The work is set to conclude in March.
Learn more
The team will develop a short publication comprising the main findings, and in addition local webinars will be scheduled. Click the relevant links on this page to get notified of either the English or Danish webinar and see a short project presentation.