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Welcome to the Research Design Connections blog, started in 2007. Recent blog entries are available here. Earlier blog entries (one for every working day since the beginning of May, 2007) are available to subscribers.

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Jiang, He, Chen, Larsen, and Wang evaluated how driving on a freeway through various sorts of urban environments influences driver experience.  They found via 90-minute simulations of environments through which study participants “drove” at the legal speed limit (70–120 km/hour) that: “The summarized mental status measure is the average value of the seven measures of negative mental status (boredom, anger, frustration, tension, anxiety, avoidance, mental fatigue). . . . the tree-regularcondition evoked significantly lower levels of negative mental status than all other conditions. . . . The barrenand shrub-randomconditions evoked significantly higher levels of negative mental status than the other four conditions, and there is no significant difference between barrenand shrub-random.The turf, shrub-regular, and tree-randomconditions ranked from 3nd to 5th on evoked level of negative mental status, but none of the comparisons between them are significant. . . . Landscapes with greater levels of greenness, such as those with a vertical outline of trees, are far more restorative.” So, as greenness increases (from barren to shrub and, finally, to tree) lower levels of negative mental status are perceived by the drivers.  Also, when greenness levels are roughly equivalent, views with greater visual complexity (random arrangements were more complex than regular ones) were tied to greater levels of negative mental status.  In random test conditions there was more species diversity and spatial variation in plant arrangement than in regular ones but in both cases (for example, tree-regular and tree-random) similar numbers of trees or shrubs were present.  The researchers recommend that barren landscapes beside freeways, those without even turf in place, be avoided.

Bin Jiang, Jibo He, Jielin Chen, Linda Larsen, and Huaqing Wang.  “Perceived Green at Speed:  A Simulated Driving Experiment Raises New Questions for Attention Restoration Theory and Stress Reduction Theory.”  Environment and Behavior, in press, https://doi.org/10.1177/0013916520947111

Divett assessed how being in either an activity-based flexible or open plan workplace influenced employee perceptions of performance.  Data were collected at 3 offices in Australia during a period 3 to 12 months before workplace transitions and at least 3 months after beginning to work in the new spaces. Divett found that “Team members were more satisfied and felt more productive within the activity-based working (ABW) environment compared to the open plan workplace. Leaders were more satisfied and felt team productivity improved, yet individual productivity for leaders remained the same. Occupants felt the key drivers of productivity were team interaction and decision-making.”

Megan Divett. “Team Dynamics Within Activity-Based Working.”  Journal of Facilities Management, in press, https://doi.org/10.1108/JFM-10-2019-0054

Wijk, Bergsten, and Hallman evaluated the experiences of a group of Swedish government employees at a single office site moving into activity-based workplaces (ABWs) from private offices (32% of participants), shared rooms with 2-3 people working in them (11% of participants), open-plan offices with 4 to 24 people working in them (41% of participants), and unspecified places (16% of participants). The researchers found via surveys administered before and 3 and 9 months after relocation and focus groups before and after changes were made that  “Health and well-being were unchanged when compared to their levels before and after the relocation to an ABW. We found that physical and psychosocial work satisfaction decreased. . . . The results indicate that organizations implementing ABWs should promote perceived meaningfulness in the process to mitigate [lessen] possible declines in satisfaction with the physical and psychosocial work environment.. . .our recommendation is to ensure that meaningfulness and comprehensibility regarding change are high when launching an intervention. Meaningfulness might be promoted by preparatory activities, such as workshops and seminars, which provide meaning and understanding for the change.”

Katarinaa Wijk, Eva Bergsten, and David Hallman. 2020 “Sense of Coherence, Health, Well-Being, and Work Satisfaction Before and After Implementing Activity-Based Workplaces.” International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, vol. 17, no. 14, 5250, https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph17145250

Kuhlmann evaluated the effects of tearing down deteriorating houses on the condition of nearby homes. He investigated “whether exposure to targeted demolitions of abandoned and distressed housing affects changes in the external condition of nearby houses.  Using two waves of a property inventory in Cleveland, Ohio, [Kuhlmann’s] models suggest that, compared with a control group of houses located near vacant housing, proximity to demolitions decreases the likelihood that a property’s condition deteriorated between 2015 and 2018 and increases the likelihood that it improved.”

Daniel Kuhlmann. “Fixing Up After Tearing Down: The Impact of Demolitions on Residential Investment.”  Journal of Planning Education and Research, in press, https://doi.org/10.1177/0739456X20934168

Hamilton probed how being in an environmentally responsible environment influences green behaviors.  She reports that “influence of situational context on behavior was explored at two scales: 1) green versus non-green building and 2) building characteristics. The Positive Sustainable Built Environments model was used to analyze three building characteristics: Prime, Permit, and Invite. Prime refers to characteristics that prepare occupants to adopt ERBs [environmentally responsible behaviors] via communicating a sustainable ethos or restoring attentional capacity (e.g., use of natural materials and views to nature). Permit refers to features that allow occupants to conserve resources (e.g., operable light switches). Invite pertains to features that explicitly encourage ERBs (e.g., signage prompting occupants to turn off lights). . . . living in a green building had no significant impact on ERBs. However, the Prime and Invite building characteristics significantly predicted improved Energy, Water, and Materials conservation. Results yield implications for designers seeking to create sustainable buildings that promote ERBs.”

Erin Hamilton.  “Green Building, Green Behavior?  An Analysis of Building Characteristics that Support Environmentally Responsible Behaviors.” Environment and Behavior, in press, https://doi.org/10.1177/0013916520942601

Mandeno and Baxter conducted interviews with people who have worked at coworking locations for at least 3 months to learn more about connections forged between people using these worksites. One of the barriers to human connectivity identified was atmosphere, “an all-encompassing barrier that refers to aspects of the physical space that may hinder the process of connecting.  Participants mentioned everything from seating to lighting . . . to the coffee space . . . to spaces feeling cheap . . . claustrophobic . . . and lacking privacy. . . As well as the basic requirements of comfort and safety, balance must be struck between creating spaces in which coworkers naturally bump into each other and that also afford privacy and intimacy.  Because of the diversity of members occupying most coworking spaces, designers should be cautious of applying the same rules that guide the design of traditional office spaces. . . . coworking settings are unique and greater effort is required to enable social normal and collegiate work to take place, supported by more successful interactions (Buchanan, 2010).”

P. Mandeno and W. Baxter.  2020.  “Barriers to Human Connectivity and the Design of More Collaborative Coworking Spaces.” International Design Conference- Design 2020,pp. 1475-1484, https://doi.org/10.1017/dsd.2020.142

Mavridis and colleagues’ work adds to the research indicating that our culture influences our perception of the world around us.  The investigators report that “Human perception differs profoundly between individuals from different cultures. . . . we investigated the development of context-sensitive attention (the relative focus on context elements of a visual scene) in a large sample . . . of 5- to 15-year-olds and young adults from rural and urban Brazil, namely from agricultural villages in the Amazon region and the city of São Paulo. . . . children and adults from the urban sample had a higher level of context-sensitive attention, when compared to children and adults from the rural sample. In particular, participants from São Paulo were more easily deceived by the context elements in an optical illusion task and remembered more context elements in a recognition task than participants from rural Amazon villages. . . . These findings support the idea that visual information processing is highly dependent on the culture-specific learning environments from very early in development.”

Pablo Mavridis, Joscha Kartner, Lilia Cavalcante, Briseida Resende, Nils Schuhmacher, and Moritz Koster.   2020.  “The Development of Context-Sensitive Attention in Urban and Rural Brazil.”  Frontiers in Psychology, https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2020.01623

A Graham-lead team at the Center for the Built Environment, University of California, Berkeley, reviewed 20 years of data collected by the Center; their findings are available without charge at the web address noted below. The CBE researchers report that “One of the most widely used online POE [post-occupancy evaluation] tools is the Center for the Built Environment’s Occupant Survey. We analyzed data collected from this tool over the last two decades (>90,000 respondents from ~900 buildings) to summarize the database and evaluate the survey structure. 68% of the respondents are satisfied with their workspace. People are most satisfied with spaces’ ease of interaction (75% satisfied), amount of light (74%) and the cleanliness (71%), and most dissatisfied with sound privacy (54% dissatisfied), temperature (39%) and noise level (34%). . . . Roughly two fifths of building occupants felt the acoustic quality and thermal comfort were responsible for interfering with their ability to complete their work, and one quarter of respondents indicated the office layout was creating interference.”    

Lindsay Graham, Thomas Parkinson, and Stefano Schiavon. 2020. “Where Do We Go Now?  Lessons Learned from 20 Years of CBE’s Occupant Survey.”  Center for the Built Environment, University of California, Berkeley, https://escholarship.org/uc/item/8k20v82j

Gaminiesfahani and colleagues investigated how healthcare environments can best meet the needs of pediatric patients.  They determined via a review of published research that “the built environment characteristics of pediatric healthcare environments that have healing benefits include access to nature, music, art and natural light, reduced crowding, reduced noise, and soft, cyclical, and user-controlled artificial lighting.”

H. Gaminiesfahani, M. Lozanovska, and R. Tucker. “A Scoping Review of the Impact on Children of the Built Environment Design Characteristics of Healing Spaces.” HERD:  Health Environments Research and Design Journal, in press, https://doi.org/10.1177/1937586720903845

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