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Using Design Science to Make Your Architecture Better (Video)


Maria Lorena Lehman


Founder — Sensing Architecture ® Academy


Scientific findings about how environments impact occupant behavior, thought, or emotion are important for designers to incorporate into their creations. This video walks you through two such findings to help architectural designers create more effective buildings. The use of design science in architectural design can help architects to better understand how their spaces will impact occupants — and by using scientific research about how environments affect the people they serve, spaces will be that much better — able to help those occupants reach their desired goals.



1) Going Outside — even in cold — Improves Memory, Attention. University of Michigan. Dec. 16, 2008

2) Graham, Laster. Interview: Nature Improves Productivity. Then Environment Report. March 2, 2009.

3) Ceiling Height Can Affect How a Person Thinks Feels and Acts. Science Daily. April 25, 2007.


00:02 Maria Lorena Lehman: This is Maria Lorena Lehman with and today we’re going to take a look at using design science to make your architecture better. As you may or may not know, there are certain scientific findings that are surfacing about the way people interact and behave within environments, and more specifically, about the way that environmental qualities and features impact occupants and their behaviors. Today we’re going to take a look at a couple of those environmental qualities and then we’ll look at how they will impact a building type. So, the first environmental quality or characteristic which we’ll explore is ceiling height. It has been found that different ceiling heights impact different levels or ways of thinking where a 10-foot ceiling height, for instance, will impact thinking so that occupants think more abstractly when they’re within a space that has 10-foot ceiling heights. But occupants will think in a more detailed way if they’re within a space that has 8-foot ceiling heights. So, as you may see, ceiling heights matter in terms of occupant behavior.

01:18 ML: Now another scientific finding which is important to note is that of nature breakpoints. This is where within an office, for example, where productivity is important, attention and focus can be improved by 20% if the occupant takes 20-50 minute nature breaks. It would be best if they walked within nature, but they can also use views of nature or virtual nature to accomplish the similar type of improvement with attention and focus which can help their productivity. So, between findings in nature and findings in ceiling height we can use such scientific findings to improve building types. And a building type which we’ll explore right now is that of the office building.

02:11 ML: In an office building, we have meeting rooms, employee offices, and even common areas. And all three of these can benefit from the scientific findings that I’ve just discussed. So in a meeting room, for example, imagine if there were an adjustable ceiling. So that, depending on the meeting type, the ceiling could adjust between 10 feet and 8 feet, and that could tailor and foster more abstract or detailed thinking respectively. So, meeting rooms can benefit from this type of ceiling height scientific finding.

02:53 ML: Now, an employee office can benefit, for example, from views of nature where interior, real or virtual nature views can help them improve by 20% their attention and focus, which will help with their productivity, something that most office building designs aim to achieve. And within common areas within office buildings ceiling height can promote creative thinking where a common area may be a 10-foot ceiling height to promote more abstract thinking. So, you get a more brainstorming or free flow of ideas.

03:38 ML: So, as you can see, we’ve used scientific findings to be integrated into building types to help occupants meet their goals within their buildings. So, as you design be on the lookout for scientific findings that impact occupant behavior to help them meet their goals. To do this, you can simply look for environmental characteristics or qualities that impact the way occupants behave, the way they think, the way they feel, and use this within your designs to make your designs that much better. Thank you for watching and listening. This is Maria Lorena Lehman with


what members are saying...
Maria: I came across your website through a reference in today's Architect Weekly ezine and am delighted I did. I'll bookmark your site and check back often. I read the first article and then the second and thirty minutes later realized how much time had passed. I've been practicing for thirty years and have always missed the stimulation of academia. I find each of your brief dissertations sort of like a day in design studio. Thanks for the inspiration.

Ron Ward
AI Group Design
I am excited to see you touch a vein of values in architecture, I have been chasing myself for years. Your depth of involvement in these very deep subjects is really beautiful and passionately dealt with and well written. Sound, color and value, shape, texture, scale, smell.... all definitive measures of the spaces we should be alert to. [...] I will savor the rest of your investigation of sensuality in architecture. I'm Glad I found you.

Dennis McLaughlin
McLaughlin Architect
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Maria Lorena Lehman is a visionary author, designer, and educator from the United States. Maria holds a Bachelor of Architecture with Honors from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and a Master in Design with Distinction from Harvard University Graduate School of Design.

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