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The Design-Behavior Loop: How Occupant-Response Informs High Performance Design

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

‍Image Credit: © kovalto1 | Fotolia

Yes, architectural design evokes behavioral response within its occupants. And as an architect it is important to understand, analyze, and improve upon your design process and end-results. Thus, by delving more deeply into the ways your design impacts those that engage with it, you can ultimately gain information to help improve its outcome. The goal is to create environments that help people achieve fulfillment through high performance so they can meet their short-term needs, and achieve their longer-term dreams and goals.

It may help to think about architectural design innovation and advancement through the lens of the “Design-Behavior Loop”. You see, design sparks behavior, and then behavior informs design. This loop can be applied to architectural works at many scales: from building to building within a city, or from moment to moment within a building. The key is to design, and then understand the response to that design. This understanding is what will inform your next design iteration to be better than your last. However, if you simply design without exploring its strengths and its weaknesses which become apparent in the way people respond over time you may very well miss out on opportunities to improve and innovate your work.

Improvements made because of the “Design-Behavior Loop” will benefit not only the architectural environment, but also its occupants. It becomes a win-win situation. To better understand your design’s impact upon its occupants, you may need to interview them, observe them, survey them, or even use the environment yourself for some time. The insights you uncover will unlock ways in which you can strengthen your design process to improve your portfolio exponentially as you simultaneously improve the lives of those impacted by your designs.

Thus, the “Design-Behavior  Loop” can help your projects at all stages: (1) during concept design as you implement opportunities presented during previous projects, (2) during design development as you consider how you will analyze this project’s impact, and (3) during building occupancy as you delve into better understanding occupant response to your design. Of course, since this is a “loop”, this process can repeat indefinitely throughout your career, to improve your work from project to project especially as new technologies, new discoveries, and new occupant needs surface.

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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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