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Perez-Urrestarazu and colleagues confirm the psychological value of plants by discussing at-home experiences during the pandemic. The researchers share that they learned via a survey completed by thousands of participants that the presence of “Indoor plants correlated with positive emotional well-being during the COVID-19 confinement. Negative emotions were more frequent in those living in small sized homes with minimal natural light and deprived of plants. Few plants strategically placed indoors and a higher number of plants combined with living walls outdoors are preferred. . . . Having indoor plants was correlated with more positive emotions. . . . A few indoor plants placed in strategic positions were also preferred compared with a high number of plants. By contrast, an increased amount of vegetation accompanied by living walls was preferred for outdoor settings.”
Luis Perez-Urrestarazu, Maria Kaltsidi, Panayiotis Nektarios, Gergios Markakis, Vivian Loges, Katia Perini, Rafael Fernandez-Canero. “Particularities of Having Plants at Home During Confinement Due to the COVID-19 Pandemic.” Urban Forestry and Urban Greening, in press, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ufug.2020.126919
Marselle and colleagues link more street trees closer to homes to a decreased likelihood that residents will be depressed. The investigators report that they “analysed the association of street tree density and species richness with antidepressant prescribing for 9751 inhabitants of Leipzig, Germany. We examined spatial scale effects of street trees at different distances around participant’s homes, using . . . buffers of 100, 300, 500, and 1000 m. . . . we found a lower rate of antidepressant prescriptions for people living within 100 m of higher density of street trees. . . . Density of street trees at further spatial distances, and species richness of street trees at any distance, were not associated with antidepressant prescriptions. . . . The study suggests that unintentional daily contact to nature through street trees close to the home may reduce the risk of depression, especially for individuals in deprived groups. This has important implications for urban planning and nature-based health interventions in cities.”
Melissa Marselle, Diana Bowler, Jan Watzema, David Eichenberg, Toralf Kirsten and Aletta Bonn. 2020. “Urban Street Tree Biodiversity and Antidepressant Prescriptions.” Scientific Reports, vol. 10, 22445, https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-020-79924-5
Kaufmann-Buhler reports on the life course of open plan offices in America. Her focus is on “the material and technical aspects of the open plan and systems furniture that manifest through its design, production, specification and use. My research draws on information and data from dozens of different open plan of ‘systems’ furniture lines ranging from the major names in the industry such as Herman Miller, Steelcase and Knoll to the lesser known systems by companies like Eppinger, Krueger, Kimball, and Hauserman.” As Bloomsbury shares on the book’s website (https://www.bloomsbury.com/us/open-plan-9781350044739/?utm_source=Adestr...): “Originally inspired by a progressive vision of a working environment without walls or hierarchies, the open plan office has since come to be associated with some of the most dehumanizing and alienating aspects of the modern office. Author Jennifer Kaufmann-Buhler traces the history and evolution of the American open plan from the brightly-colored office landscapes of the 1960s and 1970s to the monochromatic cubicles of the 1980s and 1990s, analyzing it both as a design concept promoted by architects, designers, and furniture manufacturers, and as a real work space inhabited by organizations and used by workers. The thematically structured chapters each focus on an attribute of the open plan to highlight the ideals embedded in the original design concept and the numerous technical, material, spatial, and social problems that emerged as it became a mainstream office design widely used in public and private organizations across the United States.”
Jennifer Kaufmann-Buhler. 2021. Open Plan – A Design History of the American Office. Bloomsbury Visual Arts; New York.
Eilouti presents a system for integrating ergonomics concepts into place-design decisions that reflects many existing best practices: “The process of the ergonomics-driven design includes the following steps:
1. Study and analyze the physical, psychological, and social needs for each expected user.
2. Design each space in the functional program according to its user’s needs.
3. Cluster the individual spaces into zones according to their functional requirements and occupants’ interactions.
4. Based on the initial zoning, model the layout internally into interrelated spaces and externally into balanced and responsive forms.
5. Redesign the enclosure between the generated masses to produce usable exterior spaces.
6. Refine the exterior spaces to complement the building with pleasant outdoor areas.
7. Design the building, its external envelop and landscape, as a context-sensitive entity to fit its urban fabric.
8. Although the sustainable and environmental considerations require addressing from the start of this process, they can be refined and ensured at this stage. This cycle may be repeated as needed.”
Buthayna Eilouti. “A Framework for Integrating Ergonomics Into Architectural Design.” Ergonomics in Design, in press, https://doi.org/10.1177/1064804620983672
Ross and team’s research confirms that responses to sensory experiences by children do not always directly align with those of adults, a finding that supports user age group-specific research. The investigators report that “When adults are presented with basic multimodal sensory stimuli, the Colavita effect suggests that they have a visual dominance, whereas more recent research finds that an auditory sensory dominance may be present in children under 8 years of age. . . . Here we presented children and adults with multimodal social stimuli consisting of emotional bodies and voices, asking them to recognize the emotion in one modality while ignoring the other. We found that adults can perform this task with no detrimental effects on performance regardless of whether the ignored emotion was congruent or not. However, children find it extremely challenging to recognize bodily emotion while trying to ignore incongruent vocal emotional information. In several instances, they performed below chance level. . . . this is the first evidence, to our knowledge, of an auditory dominance in children when presented with emotionally meaningful stimuli.”
Paddy Ross, Beth Atkins, Laura Allison, Holly Simpson, Catherine Duffell, Matthew Williams, and Olga Ermolina. 2021. “Children Cannot Ignore What They Hear: Incongruent Emotional Informaiton Leeds to an Auditory Dominance in Children.” Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, vol. 204, 105068, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jecp.2020.105068
Research completed by Rogers and Hart confirms that experiencing visual clutter is undesirable. The duo found that when people feel that their homes are cluttered, their wellbeing is degraded, “although the correlation between objective and subjective clutter was strong, 47.3% of those who scored in the healthy range of clutter on the objective clutter scale, reported that clutter has negatively impacted their quality of life. . . . This suggests that even when people manage clutter reasonably well, it can impact their quality of life. . . . regardless of people’s objective clutter levels, their subjective clutter scores consistently predicted their wellbeing, while their objective clutter level had little predictive power. . . . . In general populations, clutter considerations are neither mundane nor trivial but central and important to wellbeing. Clutter, regardless of its volume, is a subjective construct, individually defined and experienced . . . . when things are in their place, wherever that might be, and home expresses self-identity, wellbeing is more likely to be present.”
Caroline Rogers and Rona Hart. “Home and the Extended-Self: Exploring Associations Between Clutter and Wellbeing.” Journal of Environmental Psychology, in press, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jenvp.2021.101553
Researchers have identified fundamental differences in how men and women experience space. Wood and Jones report in a study published in Nature Human Behaviour “that the increasingly gendered division of labor in human societies during the past 2.5 million years dramatically shaped how our species uses space, and possibly how we think about it. Underlying these conclusions is a huge and detailed trove of travel data revealing stark differences in the ways men and women among the nomadic Hadza people of Tanzania use space. A contemporary hunter-gatherer society, the Hadza provide a window into a highly mobile lifestyle, which was the norm for our species before the widespread adoption of agriculture. . . . . Research in many human populations suggests men and women are better at different types of spatial tasks. On average, women tend to excel on spatial memory tasks, while men tend to score higher on two basic measures of spatial cognition associated with movement: mental rotation of objects and accurately pointing to distant locations.”
“Men and Women on the Move.” 2021. Press release, Stanford University, https://earth.stanford.edu/news/gender-and-spatial-behavior#gs.rg6nib
Design researchers will find research recently published by Guilbeault, Baronchelli, and Centola (in Nature Communications) readily applicable. The team reports that “In an experiment in which people were asked to categorize unfamiliar shapes, individuals and small groups created many different unique categorization systems while large groups created systems that were nearly identical to one another. . . . researchers assigned participants to various sized groups — ranging from 1 to 50 — and then asked them to play an online game in which they were shown unfamiliar shapes, which they were asked to categorize in a meaningful way. All of the small groups invented wildly different ways of categorizing the shapes. Yet, when large groups were left to their own devices, each one independently invented a nearly identical category system.”
“Why Independent Culture Think Alike When it Comes to Categories: It’s Not in the Brain.” 2021. Press release, University of Pennsylvania, https://www.asc.upenn.edu/news-events/news/why-independent-cultures-thin...
The Lighting Research Center, Rensselaer, has released materials that can support the development of energy efficient circadian lighting n classrooms and hospitals. As a press release from the LRC reports the LRC team “published new guidance documents for designing circadian-effective lighting in K-12 classrooms and hospital patient rooms while avoiding increased energy use. . . . For circadian entrainment and improvements in sleep quality and psychological health, high daytime light levels at the eye are necessary, followed by low evening/nighttime light levels in order to achieve a robust 24-hour light-dark pattern. However, the recommended light levels in K-12 classrooms and for general (non-exam) lighting in hospital patient rooms are generally too low for daytime circadian stimulation. . . . Designers can also increase the circadian-effectiveness of the overhead lighting by increasing overall light levels to 500 lx on the workplane for at least 2 hours during the daytime and using correlated color temperatures (CCTs) of 3500 K or higher. The most energy-efficient technique for designers to consider, however, is the addition of a supplemental layer of narrowband short-wavelength (blue) light in conjunction with typical overhead lighting.” The guidance documents from the LRC are located at https://www.lrc.rpi.edu/programs/energy/energy_design.html and at https://www.lrc.rpi.edu/programs/energy/energy_lights.html
“LRC Issues New Guidance for Implementing Circadian-Effective Lighting in Schools and Hospital Patient Rooms While Minimizing Energy Use.” 2021. Lighting Research Center, Rensselaer, https://www.lrc.rpi.edu/resources/newsroom/pr_story.asp?id=470#.YASwLC2ZNsM
Candido and colleagues surveyed people working in Australian office buildings to learn more about their experiences. They report that “A total of 1,121 post-occupancy evaluation (POE) surveys conducted in 9 offices were analyzed. All these premises hold a certification from the Green Building Council of Australia and two achieved a WELL rating. . . . Highest scores for overall satisfaction, workability, perceived productivity and health were reported on WELL-rated premises. Offices incorporating active design principles outperformed others on workability, satisfaction with work area, collaboration, unwanted interruptions, perceived productivity and health. ABW environments outperformed the traditional offices on spatial comfort, thermal comfort, noise and privacy, personal control, comfort of furnishing, adjustability of the work area and space to collaborate. People using sit–stand workstations reported spending significantly less time seated. . . . The best-performing offices implemented active and biophilic design, prioritized overall ergonomics and different spaces designed to support a variety of work-related activities.”
Christhina Candido, Samin Marzban, Shamila Haddad, Martin Mackey, and Angela Loder. “Designing Healthy Workspaces: Results from Australian Certified Open-Plan Offices.” Facilities, in press, https://doi.org/10.1108/F-02-2020-0018