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How Architecture Can Help Its Occupants to Seek Out Opportunity

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

‍Image: katietower | Flickr

The relationship between architecture and occupant can be quite a beneficial one — particularly when both aim to improve occupant lifestyle. In particular, since architecture acts as a constant observer of that lifestyle, it is most beneficial when it engages its occupants to help them improve their life directly.

By finding patterns in the way people live within their environments, architecture that is adaptive can help to make use of such patterns to help turn problems into opportunities. For example, suppose that an employee working within his office building has been working long hours on a particular project. Because of this, his attention and focus is beginning to wane as more time goes by. And this, of course, affects his decision-making abilities that impact the bottom-line of the project. As described, this can be quite a problem, particularly since the employee may not be aware that his focus and attention are less than they could be.

Hence, this is where the architecture can help.

With an adaptive office, for instance, sensors within the environment can analyze behavioral patterns to predict the precise moment when an employee’s attention, focus, and decision-making abilities begin to suffer. As a result, the architecture could inject a “just-in-time” intervention where it suggests to the employee that a break is needed. Additionally, the office environment could display nature (even virtually), which has been proven to improve productivity via attention and focus with only a thirty minute exposure.

As you can see, this adaptive architectural office helped its occupant to turn a potential problem into an opportunity to take a nourishing break for the mind — and this opportunity also impacts productivity and quality of work as well. By using architecture to tap into the patterns of an occupant’s life, it can be used to interject just what is needed, when it is needed most.

So, this architecture which finds a problem and turns it into an opportunity can serve as a great model for you as you design. When creating your buildings, think of the different patterns of behavior that your occupant will go through as they strive to achieve goals throughout the day. Then, imagine ways for your architecture to use that pattern to turn potential problems into opportunities. Seek ways to make use of occupant life patterns to improve your design — a design which ultimately serves to help occupants live better.

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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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