2. Improving Thinking through Better Air Quality
In a recent study published at the end of 2015, (Allen et al. 2015) researchers from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health found cognitive performance was 101% better on average under a higher ventilation rate (40 cfm/person – approximately 550 ppm CO2) compared to conventional building conditions (20 cfm/person – approximately 945 ppm CO2). Essentially, more fresh air translates into more effective decision making, increased ability to focus, more effective learning, and greater productivity and performance overall. Also see Harmon and Shell (2017) for a more detailed summary.
- Allen, J. G., P. MacNaughton, U. Satish, S. Santanam, J. Vallarino, and J. D. Spengler (2015) Associations of Cognitive Function Scores with Carbon Dioxide, Ventilation, and Volatile Organic Compound Exposures in Office Workers: A Controlled Exposure Study of Green and Conventional Office Environments. Environmental Health Perspective 124(6): 805-812. http://ehp.niehs.nih.gov/wp-content/uploads/124/6/ehp.1510037.alt.pdf
- Harmon, M. J. and S. Shell (2017). Are Buildings Robbing Us of Cognitive Function? How research on fresh air is changing the building industry. http://www.megroup.com/blog/are-buildings-robbing-us-of-cognitive-function/.
3. Improving Collaboration through Better Planning
The design of spaces can improve occupant interactions by reinforcing the organization’s values while providing occupants the options they need to complete their tasks. The layout, density and “affordances” of spaces for productive work directly impact how occupants work together, although sometimes results are not intuitive. For example, an open office doesn’t automatically result in better collaboration in the workplace. Opportunities for visual and acoustic privacy, comfortable density levels, paired with a measure of individual control and intentional spaces for interaction in small groups is a proven strategy (Brown 2008, 2009; Lee and Brand 2005; Wohlers and Herter 2016).
- Brown, B. (2008). Proximity and collaboration: measuring workplace configuration. Journal of Corporate Real Estate, 10(1), 5-26.
- Brown, G. 2009. Claiming a corner at work: Measuring employee territoriality in their workspaces. Journal of Environmental Psychology 29(1):44-52. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0272494408000455.
- Lee, S. Y. and J. L. Brand. 2005. Effects of control over ofﬁce workspace on perceptions of the work environment and work outcomes. Journal of Environmental Psychology 25: 323–333. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0272494405000538.
- Wohlers, C. and G. Hertel. 2016. Choosing where to work at work – towards a theoretical model of benefits and risks of activity-based flexible offices. Ergonomics. DOI: 10.1080/00140139.2016.1188220. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/00140139.2016.1188220.
4. Improving Communication through Better Technology
Technology, such as app-laden iPads that communicate with classroom AV systems, offer many advantages to education in general, and particularly relative to communicating with special education students. For some students with speech delays, autism, cerebral palsy and Down syndrome, it quite literally gives them a voice (Adebisi 2015; UT 2018). Technology has helped students speak their first words, communicate complete thoughts by touching words and images on a screen, and facilitate interactions among students with severe behavior and communication issues. But it’s important that facility infrastructure is designed to successfully incorporate such technology and adequate IT support is provided (to both teachers and families).
- Adebisi, R. O., N. A. Liman, and P. K. Longpoe (2015). Using Assistive Technology in Teaching Children with Learning Disabilities in the 21st Century. Journal of Education and Practice 6(24):14-20. https://eric.ed.gov/?id=EJ1078825.
- University of Texas (2017). The Use of Technology in Special Education. https://degree.utpb.edu/articles/education/technology-in-special-education.aspx.
5. Improving Health through Better Noise Control
Eliminating or isolating noise sources is the first step to achieving a healthy soundscape. High-quality acoustic separations allow for privacy and focus. Providing information and some degree of control to occupants also helps reduce stress. Finally, nature sounds are a leading biophilic strategy when masking is desired (Mackrill et al. 2014; Maxwell & Evans 2000; Ryherd & Wang 2008; Shield & Dockerell 2008).
- Mackrill, J., Jennings, P., & Cain, R. (2014). Exploring positive hospital ward soundscape interventions. Applied ergonomics, 45(6), 1454-1460.
- Maxwell, L. E., & Evans, G. W. (2000). The effects of noise on pre-school children’s pre-reading skills. Journal of environmental Psychology, 20(1), 91-97.
- Ryherd, E. E., & Wang, L. M. (2008). Implications of human performance and perception under tonal noise conditions on indoor noise criteria. The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, 124(1), 218-226.
- Shield, B. M., & Dockrell, J. E. (2008). The effects of environmental and classroom noise on the academic attainments of primary school children. The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, 123(1), 133-144.
6. Improving Sleep through Better Lighting
A shift worker’s lighting needs will vary depending on both the type of shift work and nature of its duration. In the case of short-term and/or rotating shift work, it isn’t possible to adapt the circadian rhythm to one’s changing schedule. In such cases, it’s recommended the use of higher frequency / shorter wavelength light sources are limited, and that higher illumination levels are used at the beginning of a shift, decreasing some towards the end of a shift (Canazei et al. 2016; Lucas et al. 2014). In the context of short term and/or rotating shift work, this essentially optimizes a balance between a shift worker’s alertness at work and the quality of sleep obtained outside of work. Also see Harmon (2017) for a more detailed summary.
- Canazei, M., W. Pohl, H. R. Bliem & E. M. Weiss (2016). Acute effects of different light spectra on simulated night-shift work without circadian alignment. Chronobiology International: The Journal of Biological and Medical Rhythm Research 31:1-15. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27579732.
- Harmon, M. J. (2017). Shift Work Lighting: Does Your Lighting Affect Performance? http://www.megroup.com/blog/shift-work-lighting-does-your-lighting-affect-performance/.
- Lucas, R., S. Peirson, D. M. Berson, T. M. Brown, H. M. Cooper, C. A. Czeisler, M. G Figueiro, P. D. Gamlin, S. W. Lockley, J. B. O’Hagan, L. L. A. Price, I. Provencio, D. J. Skene, and G. C. Brainard. (2014). Measuring and using light in the melanopsin age. Trends Neuroscience 37(1): 1–9. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4699304/.
7. Improving Sustainability through Better Analysis
Modeling that more accurately captures the realities of occupant experience and behaviors (or at least addresses more of the complexities involved), whether that’s occupant satisfaction with open-office environments (Veitch et al. 2007), occupant window opening behavior (Fabi et al. 2012; Herkel and Pfafferott 2008), clothing insulation values (Lee and Schiavon 2014), or something else along these lines, will more accurately reflect the combined building/occupant organism after occupancy. You’ll have a better understanding of actual performance and the ability of a given design to meet any specific sustainability goals. And because more comprehensive modeling does a better job of capturing the triple bottom line of environmental, social and economic factors relevant to a particular project, it has greater potential for encouraging sustainable decision-making (Wong and Fan 2013; e.g. Harmon 2018). The earlier such modeling is incorporating the more of an impact it will have along these lines.
- Fabi, V., R. V. Andersen, S. Corgnati, and B. W. Olesen (2012). Occupants’ window opening behaviour: A literature review of factors inﬂuencing occupant behaviour and models. Building and Environment 58(2012):188-198. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0360132312001977.
- Harmon, M. (2018). Constructing Our Niches: The Ultimate/Proximate Relationship Relative to Planning, Design, Construction, and Operations. This View of Life Magazine May 8, 2018. https://evolution-institute.org/constructing-our-niches-the-ultimate-proximate-relationship-relative-to-planning-design-construction-and-operations/.
- Herkel, S., U. Knapp, and J. Pfafferott (2008). Towards a model of user behavior regarding the manual control of windows in office buildings. Building and Environment 43(4):588-600. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S036013230600326X.
- Lee, K. H. and S. Schiavon (2014). Influence of Three Dynamic Predictive Clothing Insulation Models on Building Energy Use, HVAC Sizing and Thermal Comfort. Energies 7:1917-1934. http://www.mdpi.com/1996-1073/7/4/1917.
- Veitch, J.A., K. E. Charles, K. M. J. Farley, and G. R. Newsham (2007). A model of satisfaction with open-plan office conditions: COPE field findings. Journal of Environmental Psychology 27(3):177-189. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0272494407000345.
- Wong, K. and Q. Fan (2013). Building information modelling (BIM) for sustainable building design. Facilities 31(3/4):138-157. https://www.emeraldinsight.com/doi/pdfplus/10.1108/02632771311299412.
8. Improving Engagement through Better Biophilia
Research suggests a link between biophilia and engagement. For example, a global study (Human Spaces 2015) in biophilic design found that 33% of the 7,600 workers surveyed indicated an office’s design influences their decision to work at a certain company. And Barton and Pretty (2010) found that a visual connection to nature positively impacted attitude and overall happiness. Basically, because research suggests a link between employee satisfaction with their physical environment and their level of engagement (Madu et al. 2017; Steelcase 2016), well implemented biophilia design principles will on average increase employee engagement.
- Barton, J. & J. Pretty (2010). What Is the Best Dose of Nature and Green Exercise for Improving Mental Health. Environmental Science & Technology, 44, 3947–3955. https://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/es903183r.
- Human Spaces (2015). The Global Impact of Biophilic Design in the Workplace. https://greenplantsforgreenbuildings.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/08/Human-Spaces-Report-Biophilic-Global_Impact_Biophilic_Design.pdf.
- Madu, N. G., S. P. Asawo, and J. M. O. Gabriel (2017). Physical workplace environment and employee engagement: A theoretical exploration. International Journal of Arts and Humanities 1(10):867-884. http://www.journal-ijah.org/more.php?id=63.
- Steelcase (2016). Engagement and the Global Workplace – The Steelcase Global Report. Report No.: 16-0000104. https://info.steelcase.com/global-employee-engagement-workplace-comparison#compare-about-the-report.