Research Design Connections

Working Without Assigned Desks (07-29-16)

Kim and his team investigated the experiences of people working without a space at their corporate offices that they could claim as their own on an ongoing basis.  The researchers report that “It is clear that the main driver for desk sharing practices is the tangible economic benefits guaranteed by reducing the amount of office space per person. . . . This paper draws on a database from Australian building occupant survey to investigate how desk arrangements (whether or not one has a pre-allocated desk) can affect occupant satisfaction, self-reported productivity or health at workplaces.

Heat Resilience as a Design Objective (07-28-16)

The temperatures people will experience in outdoor spaces should have a significant effect on design decisions.  Sharifi, Sivam and Boland report that “During summer heatwaves, heat load exacerbates in urban heat islands (especially in hot climates) and threatens public life in cities. . . . Heat resilience is . . . the ability of the space to support its normal activities when experiencing out-of-comfort temperatures.” The researchers studied “the links between urban microclimates, outdoor thermal discomfort and public life. . .

Value of Green Certification (07-27-17)

How much is green certification worth?  Chopra and Wu studied companies in the computer and electronics industry; “They paired each company [in their study that had undertaken eco-friendly practices] with a control firm that did not initiate eco-friendly practices but was similar across a variety of factors, including its geographical location, size, sales, and assets. . . .

Satisfaction With Cities (07-26-16)

People of different ages assess cities using different criteria.  Hogan and his team “hypothesised that citizens’ ratings of their city along dimensions of performance (e.g., basic – usually government – services related to education, healthcare, social services, and policing) and place (e.g., the beauty of the city and a built environment that provides access to cultural, sport, park, transport, and shopping amenities) would be significant predictors of happiness but that the nature of these effects would change over the lifespan.”  Collecting data via a survey from 5,000

Background Noise and Learning (07-25-16)

Background noise influences toddlers’ ability to learn.  McMillan and Saffran studied two sets of toddlers (22-24 months old and 28-30 months old) who were being taught new words in a space where other people could be heard speaking. Both the older and younger children “successfully learned novel label–object pairings when target speech was 10 dB louder than background speech but not when the signal-to-noise ratio (SNR) was 5 dB [meaning when the teacher’s voice was only 5 decibels louder than background speech].

Unhappy in Cities (07-22-16)

Okulicz-Kozaryn and Mazelis studied how happy people living in cities are.  Their work indicates that “people in cities are less happy, confirming a long-standing argument in the literature. . . . the core characteristics of urban life (in particular size and density) contribute to urban unhappiness.”  Statistical techniques were used to rule out urban problems (such as crime and poverty) as explanations for this unhappiness.

Adam Okulicz-Kozaryn and Joan Mazelis.  “Urbanism and Happiness:  A Test of Wirth’s Theory of Urban Life.”  Urban Studies, in press.

Investigating Workplace Issues (07-21-16)

An online resource, available without charge at the web address noted below, can provide a framework for the assessment of “health problems and subjective disorders arising at indoor workplaces, and in the identification of practical solutions. . . . Topics covered include health complaints, buildings, facilities, workplace organization, physical, chemical and biological hazards, and mental factors.”

Consequences of Being Observed (07-20-16)

Doing something in view of others has important consequences.  As Steinmetz and team report, “people, when observed, perceive their actions as more substantial because they add the audience’s perspective to their own perspective. . . participants who were observed while eating . . . or learned they were observed after eating . . . recalled eating a larger portion than unobserved participants.”  In short, “The presence of others magnified both desirable and undesirable actions.”  In addition,  “observed (vs.

Culture and Looking (07-19-16)

Research continues to accumulate indicating that people from different cultures literally look at their world differently.  Consistent with previous research lead by Nisbett, Masuda, Ishil and Kimura found via research with people who were European Canadian and Japanese that were asked to look at images that  “European Canadians substantially attended to the focal figures longer and more frequently than to the backgrounds, whereas Japanese equally allocated their attention to both the focal figures and the backgrounds.”  This finding has repercussions for the sorts of environmental factors


Research Conversations


Why do some spaces feel like homes but not others?  Scientists have thoroughly investigated the answer to this question and what they’ve learned should inform the work of designers developing not only homes, but also places such as dormitories, hotels, hospitals, and stores. Yes, stores.



Well-designed gardens are valued additions to residential and commercial areas.  Like emeralds, they can boost moods and in other ways enhance mental and physical wellbeing.  This article shares insights from studies done by people outside the landscape architecture world that should be applied by garden designers.  



For many decades, cognitive scientists have been trying to figure out the fundamental drives that motivate humans to do the things they do.  There’s a lot of general agreement among investigators, although each team seems to relish using its own lingo.  Design that reflects what these researchers have learned makes lives better.


The Environmental Design Research Association (EDRA) met from May 18 to 21 in Raleigh, North Carolina. 

News Briefs


Ideas for designing homes that promote wellbeing


Aligning cultures, values, and desired emotions

Light spaces for happy and sad people differently

Control over technology matters

Green behavior can be linked to culture and development

Campuses build capital, and users know where

Aesthetic judgments and use may not mesh

Nearby areas and map scale affect judgments

Book Reviews


Important background that should guide design development

A timely introduction to designing out danger

Design at Work


The  4th floor reading room at GVSU's Pew Library is a place where people can think great thoughts and get work done.