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Can Occupant Skin Push Important Information Through to Optimize Building Performance?

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

Image Credit: © Dreamstime

Until now, I’ve written much about how clothing worn by occupants can act as sensors which collect data about their activities and functions in real time. Such data can be transmitted through to the building to further optimize its own operations and to bring greater value to its occupants.

But I am beginning to see now that the sensing of occupant activities and functions can go well beyond clothing. You see, in the future, skin will be “upgraded”: embedded with sensors, health tattoos, or temporary skin tattoos. Such skin sensors will be able to detect occupant health cues like heart rate or even brain waves. Additionally, health tattoos will be able to help those with disabilities to manage their impairments better, where for instance; those with diabetes would use their tattoos to constantly monitor their glucose levels. (1)

In the end, scientific advancements are making it possible for designers to really tap into what makes their occupants tick. And with real-time information about how your occupants are interacting, you stand in optimum position to use emerging design techniques to bring maximum value to your occupants. So, how might you do this?

For starters, think about interactive or adaptive architectural design — where your built environment responds to occupant language or behavior. Now, when you design in this manner, you need to make certain that when your design interacts with its occupant it is doing so in the healthiest way. And to ensure this, information collected can help to inform the next interaction which your architecture engages in.

In a sense, the closer you can get to how your occupant is actually feeling, thinking, or behaving, the better chance your design will have of meeting their most important and immediate needs.

So in addition to the sensing of your occupants behaviors through clothing and everyday objects, begin to consider how their skin, once “upgraded”, will play a role in the way you design your buildings. As an architect, ask yourself about how this would impact the way you design. Would you be able to design buildings that foster healthier, happier, more creative, or more productive occupants?


(1) Boyle, Rebecca. The Future of Skin. Popular Science. September 14, 2011.


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 multi award-winning visionary author, designer, and educator from the United States. Maria holds a Bachelor of Architecture with Honors from Virginia Tech and a Master in Design with Distinction from Harvard University Graduate School of Design. CLICK HERE to learn more.

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