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Inject Reward into Architectural Design to Promote Occupant Activities

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

As a person works to achieve their goal, they often will encounter milestones along the way. And at these milestones it becomes important for them to assess how they are doing. Are they behind where they should be at a certain point? Are they ahead? And what happens as a result of where they are?

Well, what if an environment could pick up on cues about where an occupant is in relation to their goal? Perhaps it could use some just in time design interventions to help motivate and educate occupants toward their goal. This type of designing might take advantage of what I wrote about in my last post on adaptive architecture. That is, the architecture could feedback information to its occupant to help them achieve their goals.

Such an architecture would take advantage of aspects like teaching and rewarding occupants at just the right moments. Akin to a video game that rewards you to continue onto the next level — this type of adaptive architecture differs in that it aims to ease the obstacles and challenges while motivating and teaching its occupant.

Some examples of this type of reward-system architecture could be an environment that proactively helps occupants lose weight, engage in healthier habits, or work more productively. You see, each of these goals can be broken down into milestones, and each of the milestones can be used as points in time during which the environment can offer feedback on where an occupant is in their process, on how to improve for their next steps, and it can offer feedback in the form of a reward — which can serve as powerful motivation.

So, your objective as a designer isn’t to reward your occupants in meaningless ways, but to find rewards for them that are meaningful for them and their way of life…for their goals and objectives. You can make your environment feedback to its occupants in the form of signage, digital media installations, beautifully composed architectural elements, or even through their mobile devices. Don’t forget that environments are becoming more able to communicate with occupants through objects and appliances found within the environment.

Whatever the case, think about reward for your occupants as you design. How will you reward them? When will you reward them? And for what will you reward them? Think about elements that fit into their daily narrative, and also remember that you can use techniques like surprise, beauty, and knowledge to enhance their experience and propel occupants toward their goals.

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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.

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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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