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Top 4 Ways Adaptive Architecture Adjusts to Occupant Response


Maria Lorena Lehman


Founder — Sensing Architecture ® Academy


Architecture and occupants can engage in a two-way dialogue where each improves because of interaction with the other. Such a two-way exchange in real-time where architecture then begins to adjust to occupant response yields an adaptive architecture that aims to meet occupant needs. In this micro-lecture, you will learn 4 key ways that an adaptive architecture can adjust to occupant response to help solve for their needs in real-time. Watch the following micro-lecture to see how these 4 methods help adaptive architecture to exude its own behavioral language.



00:00 Maria Lorena Lehman: I’m Maria Lorena Lehman, Founder of Sensing Architecture. In this Micro-Lecture, I’m going to teach you four key ways adaptive architecture adjusts to occupant response. As you can see here, we have architecture and we have occupants. Now as occupants engage within the architecture and embark upon their experiential journey within the built environment, the architecture itself can respond to occupant behaviors. When an architecture responds, this can make it interactive as it engages with its occupants in real-time. But after its first response, an occupant can emit a certain behavior, and once they do this, the architecture through its sensors can respond once again, but this time it can adjust its response to best fit occupant needs — and this begins to make architecture go from being an interactive design toward being adaptable.

01:15 MLL: So the question that we are asking today is what are ways that adaptive architecture can adjust to occupant response in real-time? So the first way is through kinetics. Architecture in this way can adjust physically as its pieces and parts, its featured elements can move through space to interact with its surroundings, like nature for instance, to respond to occupant need. A second way that adaptive architecture can adjust to occupant response is through its materials, especially as smart materials and nano materials are emerging. Materials themselves are able to react and respond and of course architecture depends a lot upon its own materiality. So this is another way that architectural elements can contribute to the overall architectural language that is adaptable.

02:24 MLL: The third way adaptive architecture can adjust occupant response is through technological changes. Air quality can adjust through HVAC systems, lighting can adjust through fixtures and acoustics can be adjusted as well. So technology within a built environment can help architecture adjust its environmental stimuli for occupant need. And the fourth way that adaptive architecture can adjust to occupant response is through information. Information that is conveyed through an adaptive architecture can do things like help to educate occupants and share with them latest events or news that are going on within the building for example.

03:19 MLL: Now all of these different ways in which adaptive architecture can adjust to occupant response come together to yield what would be the architectural language which becomes the architecture’s real-time behavior. And what happens is, that this adaptive architecture and occupant begin to have a two-way dialogue that occurs in real-time as each senses the other and adjust to improve because of the other, so the relationship becomes synergistic. So as you design think about these ways that your architecture can use kinetics, materials like smart materials, technology, and information to help your architecture make changes to itself in time, in real-time to help meet occupant need. I think this will help your designs to stand out as superb occupant experiences that help to uplift quality of life.

04:34 MLL: Thank you for watching. I’m Maria Lorena Lehman, Founder of Sensing Architecture. If you’d like to learn more, I invite you to join my Design Insight Newsletter, and you will also get my book “Bringing Architecture to the Next Level” for free. Discover how you can shift your mindset to reach breakthrough ideas, meet and predict occupant need using sensory design, leverage your design process so you can get more with less, and rethink new technologies to unleash your innovative edge. To join now and access your book simply visit


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 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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