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Finding Patterns in New Methods of Tracking Building Occupant and Environment Interactions

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

Image Credit: © jurvetson | Flickr

With the uprising of more technologies that seem to track everything from sleep, to diet, to other behavioral patterns, environmental design is becoming more of an important player in helping to collect such clues that consequentially help make a person’s life better. Such clues reveal patterns that can be used to determine where, when, and how a person might make adjustments in their life to improve issues like their health, productivity, memory, creativity, or even to help them engage in more socially-conscious behaviors, like green living.

So, the key here for you as an architect is to understand how patterns are inherent to how your designed spaces get used — and such patterns, upon their collection, can help you to design better for your building occupant, and can help your building to adapt in real-time to your occupants’ everchanging needs, as they need them. Especially, the more subtle ones that make a big difference.

I’m sure you’ve already begun to see sleep monitors, or diet monitors, becoming more readily available in devices like the iPhone, or other wrist-worn devices, for instance. (1) But have you stopped to consider what role your designed architectural environments play in this type of real-time lifestyle tracking and pattern analysis?

It is important for you to ask yourself, as an architect, “How can I use clues about how my building occupant behaves to help inform the way I design for them? And how can I use such clues to make my designs better, by tapping into the more subtle nuances of their life?” Also, you should consider whether some of the clues which your environment collects about an occupant would be beneficial to share back with them, in real-time and within that same environment. Might they impact the way your occupant makes health-minded choices, for example?

It is one thing to design for a populations’ general programmatic requirements which seem to get categorized into “standard” needs…a kind of “one size fits all approach”. But you can go a step further to personalize your design, to build an environment that speaks to your occupants’ particular weaknesses and strengths — to build an environment that picks up on the nuances that will make your occupant’s life better.

Thus, you should keep an eye out for new technologies that reveal patterns in your occupant’s lifestyle or health. Just as an occupant’s allergies might make a difference in the type of materials you choose for their designed space, new types of devices are revealing new types of information about people’s lives. Be sure to use such resources to better understand people in general, to better interpret the differences which your particular occupant presents, and to help you find new ways to design environments that collect, analyze, and solve for what were previously, invisible clues.


(1) Nagle, Micheal. Tracking Attention, Social Activity, and Our Environment. The Measured Life. Technology Review.


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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