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Design Better Architecture by Predicting Occupant Need

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

Understand Your Occupant’s Narrative Get to their Most Pressing Needs

When you design, are you simply putting architectural pieces and parts together in hopes that your occupant will get some use out of them? Or, are you analyzing your occupants’ narrative so that you will better understand what it is that they will need — so that you can design your architecture to preemptively meet those needs?

From design vision to functional reality…Your occupants narrative holds keys to the design of their optimal environment. Image Credit: © Albasu | Fotolia

Well, today’s article is all about how you can do a better job at predicting occupant need to improve your design — in other words, finding ways to engage your building occupant with what matters to them, when and how they need it most. This often means that you will need to understand your occupants’ “flow” before-hand, to create a truly humane environment where they can thrive by reaching their goals and enjoying their journey toward accomplishing them.

Three Questions to Think Differently About Architectural Design

With all of this in mind, there are three questions that you should ask yourself as you design your architecture. Each one will get you to think about your design in a slightly different way — but all are designed to get you to calculate occupant need into your design poetically. Here they are:

  • Does meeting occupant need mean that your design needs to morph in real-time?
  • Does meeting occupant need mean that you need to know your occupant’s journey in detail?
  • Does meeting occupant need mean that your design should meet needs that your occupant does not realize they have?

Really, you can answer yes to each of the questions, but the real exercise here is to understand that you can always do a better job at meeting occupant needs. For instance, can your design morph in real-time to meet changing needs? Can you do a better job at understanding the narrative nuances of your building occupant? Can your design solve for needs before they even arise to become an issue for your occupant?

Architecture as an Active Participant in the Occupant Journey

It’s wonderful to design architecture with features that get your occupants to engage and take action — but it is also important to understand how your architecture affects them (in both the short term and the long term). If a hospital patient does not have their environmental needs met, for instance, this could detract from their healing progress — thus, it becomes important for the architect of a hospital to understand more in-depth what goes into proper healing for a patient, their illness and treatment — from a design perspective.

This is true for most all building types. Architectural design impacts occupants through their experience. This is why architecture should be considered an active participant in the experiential journey which occupants take.

Solve For Occupant Needs Before They Arise

So, make certain that you are not only taking occupant needs into account by solving for them once they arise, but also by solving for them before they arise. You can do this by analyzing your building occupant’s journey — by finding their milestones and goals, and by understanding how your architecture can help them to reach those. After all, if your architecture is preventative and proactive, it will go from merely solving for symptoms to getting at the root of what yields occupant happiness, health and safety.

Use your architecture to communicate to your occupants, by placing them at the center. Be predictive as well as reactive with your designs — for this will take your designs into another realm where occupants will find true comfort, beauty, and function on new levels.

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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 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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