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Building Design That Personalizes, Predicts and Prevents (Video)

By Maria Lorena Lehman — Get more articles like this sent to your email HERE.

We are currently in the midst of an information revolution which I often hear overwhelms people, particularly as they strive to solve complex problems where they need to rely on specific information to know how and when to act upon their choices in order to find a clear path toward their goal.

Often, there is so much information that those same people even have trouble trying to decipher what their best choices are in the first place. So, how is architectural design being affected by this informational influence which brings with it such overwhelm?

I think that there is information that architecture conveys through its building designelements, that if thought of differently and if presented differently, could drastically improve lifestyle for its occupants — not only to solve problems which they currently have, but to also help predict future problems that may arise, by thus, engaging with them to make healthy changes earlier-on so as to prevent those problems from ever surfacing in the first place.

It is most clearly evident that such an adaptive architectural design would have most immediate and beneficial use when engaging with an occupant’s daily habits, physiological biorhythms and other occupant-specific personalized traits.

For, it is within architecture that a sort of melting pot occurs where we have different emerging and advancing technologies that can carry out different, yet interrelated tasks — like augmented reality and ubiquitous computing which, when teamed up with other advances in areas like industrial design, can fuse not just within a building, but throughout it, to create a dynamic environment where that occupant can flourish.

For example, if an occupant is having trouble concentrating when trying to finish a task in their workspace, perhaps the sensory architecture can be designed in such a way as to promote creative thinking during certain times of day. Even more specifically, perhaps a workspace could sensorially morph dependent upon the type of work that an occupant needs to do within it, dynamically — from moment to moment. Even the most subtle of sensory building element changes can make a huge difference — and it is upon these types of details that occupant lifestyle is built.

Pulling from “Unused” Information to Improve Occupant Environments

You can see in the following video lecture, entitled It’s Time to Redesign Medical Data(presented by Thomas Goetz), that already there is thought being given to simplifying informational complication to help alleviate people’s lives. In the case of this lecture, Goetz proposes a re-design of medical blood test data which is usually given to doctors to translate back to their patients.

Instead, he argues that such information should be presented differently and also be placed in the hands of the patient. After all, it is they who are going to have to change their lifestyle in order to bring any worrisome medical results back into healthier ranges. What good is such overly-complicated data if only the doctor sees it and doesn’t have time to fully translate all that it means for the patient? As the saying goes…so much can be lost in translation. And I think it will be the patient who suffers most.

I find this thinking quite interesting and I can’t help but think of how architecture can be improved by looking through a similar lens. As new advances in technology emerge, you as an architectural designer, stand it prime position to help those sensory elements within your building be best “translated” for your occupants. And because occupants spend a large part of their lives within such architecture, buildings have a great chance to engage with them in not only larger “a-ha” moments, but also in more subtle ways that truly help occupants begin to “translate” information about themselves back to themselves. I think it is here where maximum benefit can also occur.

The following is a video of the above mentioned lecture. The key here is watch this video as an architect, through your own architectural lens. As you watch, think about what other types of occupant information are underutilized (or not utilized at all) that can be translated back to your occupants to help them flourish.

I think that architecture can become part of a positive feedback loop that engages occupants to not only understand their lifestyle habits, but also serves to help keep them going, improve upon them or change them if needed. After all, one’s environment does play a major role in the way we not only interact with each other, but with ourselves — not only in how we perceive ourselves and what we are capable of doing, but also in how we take steps toward achieving the best version of ourselves, for both short and long-term.

After all, isn’t it better to make a more subtle life-changing adjustment now in order to prevent a more major problem from arising in the future? An alternative would be to not do anything now, thus waiting until a large problem arises where more drastic action would need to take place. And by then, it could even be too late. The key is to empower your building occupants, not just with broad architectural strokes, but also with more subtle and detailed refinements that will meet their needs both today and well into their future.

How might you think that architecture today can become more of an active player in preventative building design? How might we design architecture that makes use of its emerging technologies to help occupants get to the root of a need or a problem? You might also ask yourself more simple questions about how your architecture can further engage your occupants in a way that gives them what they need, before they even realize that they need it.

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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 an award-winning 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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