Latest Blog Posts

An Oslo-based study investigated livability in compact cities.  Mouratidis found that “compact-city residents appear to be significantly more satisfied with their neighbourhood compared with residents of sprawled suburbs. . . . when examining the impact of compactness within a wider range of urban form typologies, findings suggest that the higher the presence of compact-city characteristics the higher the neighbourhood satisfaction. Population density has a positive association with neighbourhood satisfaction [greater density, more satisfaction], as densely populated areas offer easy access to amenities, to public transport and to other areas. . . . longitudinal results suggest that moving from a sprawled neighbourhood to a compact one significantly increases neighbourhood satisfaction, while moving in the opposite direction does not cause significant changes. . . .  residents who have lived in both compact and sprawled neighbourhoods during the last five years seem to be significantly more satisfied when they live in compact neighbourhoods.”

Kostas Mouratidis. 2018. “Is Compact City Livable?  The Impact of Compact Versus Sprawled Neighborhoods on Neighbourhood Satisfaction.” Urban Studies, vol. 55, no. 11, pp. 2408-2430,

South and team investigated the effects of greening vacant lots on the self-reported mental health of people living within a quarter mile of the “greened” lots.  They found that “feeling depressed significantly decreased by 41.5% and self-reported poor mental health showed a reduction of 62.8% for those living near greened vacant lots compared with control participants.”  Data were collected from people living near 541 vacant lots.  One of three interventions occurred at each of the 541 lots: “The greening intervention involved removing trash, grading the land, planting new grass and a small number of trees, installing a low wooden perimeter fence, and performing regular monthly maintenance. The trash cleanup intervention involved removal of trash, limited grass mowing where possible, and regular monthly maintenance. The control group received no intervention.”  The greening intervention was linked to enhanced wellbeing; the others were not.

Eugenia South, Bernadette Hohl, Michelle Kondo, John MacDonald, and Charles Branas.  2018.  “Effect of Greening Vacant Land on Mental Health of Community-Dwelling Adults.” JAMA Network Open, vol. 3, e180298, DOI: 10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2018.0298

Heat islands can help urban areas stay warm during the winter.  Researchers report that “the urban heat island effect — cities are hotter in the summer than their surrounding areas — also helps keep cities warmer during extreme cold. The findings have implications for urban planners in areas such as New York City or Chicago, which experience marked seasonal temperature swings.”  Yang and Bou-Zeid found after analyzing data collected in 12 cities in the Northeast and Midwest of the United States during a 2014 cold wave that “urban areas stayed warmer than the surrounding suburbs and country. The difference in temperature was greatest during the cold wave, which set more than 49 low-temperature records. The temperatures differences were also more pronounced at night than during the day. . . . During cold waves, street canyons help cities reduce heating demand and make being outdoors more tolerable.”  Yang and Bou-Zeid’s findings are published in Applied Meteorology and Climatology.

“Cold Wave Reveals Potential Benefits of Urban Heat Islands.”  2018, Press release, Princeton University,

How does its setting influence trust in an organization? Baer and colleagues set out to answer that question. They “conducted two studies examining how the ‘look and feel’ of an organization shapes newcomers’ trust in that organization. . . . we examined the effects of situational normality—the degree to which the work setting appears customary, with everything in proper order. We then introduced the construct of situational aesthetics—the degree to which the work setting has a pleasing and attractive appearance. A field study of new accountants revealed that situational normality and situational aesthetics had indirect effects on trust through perceived trustworthiness. . . . . We then replicated those trustworthiness findings in a laboratory setting. . . .our results suggest that newcomer trust formation may be shaped by aspects of the work setting that have been heretofore ignored by trust scholars.”

Michael Baer, Lisa van der Werff, Jason Colquitt, Jessica Rodell, Kate Zipay, and Finian Buckley. “Trusting the “Look and Feel’: Situational Normality, Situational Aesthetics, and the Perceived Trustworthiness of Organizations.”  Academy of Management Journal, in press,

Research by Jiang, Schmillen, and Sullivan confirms that not all experiences outdoors have the same effect on our brains. The Jiang lead team had people do cognitive work inside and then travel to either an outdoor space with nature or a space that was “barren” (definition below); half of the people in the green space and half of the people in the barren areas during their breaks had laptops with them. All outdoor spaces had wi-fi access.  In the barren spaces no trees or vegetation were visible; the participants could only see “human-made elements such as parking lots, walls, or the sides of buildings.” In the green areas, there was lots of vegetation, particularly trees.  The break period was 15 minutes long.  The study participants with laptops during the break were asked to use them as they would usually while taking a break and not to do work on them during the break. The researchers suggested that during the break the laptops could be used, for example, to access social media or watch YouTube videos.   Jiang and colleagues found that “When individuals spend time in green outdoor environments without engaging their laptop computers, their attentional functioning improves. The same is not true for individuals who use their laptops in green settings or for those assigned to the barren environment. For these individuals, a 15-min break was the equivalent of no break at all.”  To evaluate the effects of the number of minutes spent on laptops during the break, people with laptops during their breaks were divided into four different groups: those in green settings who used their laptops for 50% or more of their break time, those in green settings who used their laptops for less than 50% of their break time, people in barren settings who used their laptops for 50% or more of their break time, and those in barren settings who used their laptops for less than 50% of their break time.  The conclusion the researchers reached after these analyses: “These results further confirm physically being in a green space without engaging with an electronic device is the only condition that produced significant enhancement of attentional functioning.”

Bin Jiang, Rose Schmillen, and William Sullivan. “How to Waste a Break:  Using Portable Electronic Devices Substantially Counteracts Attention Enhancement Effects of Green Spaces.”  Environment and Behavior, in press,

The Center for Health Design is making available, at the website noted below, a collection of tools that can be used to enhance safety at an assortment of healthcare facilities. The materials provided include “research findings, expert insights, strategies, and other useful resources connecting the built environment to better health outcomes and reduced cost of care. . . . all safety materials produced for this toolbox are available and free to all until July 2019.”  The information available is an important resource for designers because “Designers often think of safety in the context of fire and life safety, while healthcare owners and caregivers may think of safety in the context of serious reportable events and hospital-acquired conditions. But poorly designed and operated healthcare environments can also contribute to harm associated with adverse events such as healthcare-associated infections (HAIs), medication errors, injury from patient handling, self-harm (or violence against others), security breaches, and falls.”  The “safety toolbox” is packed with immediately applicable tips and recommendations.

Wittbrodt and Millard-Stafford’s findings indicate how important it is to make sure that people in designed spaces have opportunities to remain hydrated.  The investigators determined via a literature review and mathematical integration of previous research findings that “Impairment of cognitive performance (all domains/outcomes) with DEH [dehydration] was small but significant. . . . Tasks of executive . . . attention . . . . and motor coordination . . . were significantly impaired . . . following DEH. . .  DEH impairs cognitive performance, particularly for tasks involving attention, executive function, and motor coordination when water deficits exceed 2% body mass loss.”  These findings indicate that the ability to solve mathematical problems or be logical are degraded in dehydrated people, for example.

Matthew Wittbrodt and Melinda Millard-Stafford.  “Dehydration Impairs Cognitive Performance:  A Meta-Analysis.”  Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, in press, DOI:  10.1249/MS. 0000000000001682

Adekunle and Nikolopoulou did a post-occupancy evaluation of three-prefabricated timber housing developments.  Their analyses indicated that there were positive consequences of residents having control of the conditions in their homes; these findings are consistent with previous research.  The research team report that their “study identifies the significant impact of control on occupants’ comfort and adaptation.”

Timothy Adekunle and M. Nikolopoulou.  “Post-Occupancy Evaluation on People’s Perception of Comfort, Adaptation and Seasonal Performance of Sustainable Housing:  A Case Study of Three Prefabricated Structural Timber Housing Developments.”  Intelligent Buildings International, in press,

Alexandersson and Kalonaityte studied images of high-visibility offices online to identify patterns in the design of workplaces categorized as “playful/” encouraging play. They found that playful offices included design elements consistent with the outdoors or home or nightlife or childhood or a combination of these four place types/concepts.  “Outdoors” was the most common theme in playful offices and playful outdoors-related spaces included greenery of some sort, three-dimensionally or in two-dimensional images.  Some of the “outdoor” areas included items found on playgrounds, such as slides that stretched between two floors of an office. Home was “represented in a very particular way, through the arrangement of sofas, armchairs and coffee tables imitating a living room . . . the temporalities these living rooms allude to are those of evenings, nights and weekends.”  In spaces linked to nightlife “imitating restaurants, bars, nightclubs, inns and diners” was important.  Childhood was evoked, for example, “through the use of the amusement park theme. Amusement park offices stand out as the most carefully crafted, and, in many cases, as encapsulating the entire office building.”

Anna Alexandersson and Viktorija Kalonaityte. 2018. “Playing to Dissent:  The Aesthetics and Politics of Playful Office Design.”  Organization Studies, vol. 39, no. 203, pp. 297-317, DOI: 10.1177/0170840617717545

Sullivan and Livingston report on the potential influence that roadway roundabouts (also known as rotaries) can have on society.  They share that “our research reveals that subtle alterations to the powerful American ideals of individuality, mobility, and freedom occur inside and outside of the roundabout—an unconventional public space. . . . we suggest that over time the day-to-day activities [of traveling through roundabouts] will eventually result in the creation of practices that resemble more cooperative interaction and a sharing of power, unlike what emulates from the traffic light and four-way stop. . . . our ethnographic analysis reveals that the roundabout has the potential to act as an agent for social and political change. . . . we recognize a softening in the individualist tendencies of the users and instead find an environment of cooperation and community.”

Thomas Sullivan and Christopher Livingston.  “Round and Round We Go!  The Performative Nature of the Roundabout.”  Space and Culture, in press, DOI: 10.1177/1206331217741833


Subscribe to Latest Blog Posts