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YouGov, a respected research organization, investigated in-office experiences.  The investigators determined that “In just the past six months, open office workers in major cities across the U.S. [New York, LA, Chicago, Boston, Philadelphia, Washington DC, Detroit, Seattle, San Francisco and Houston] have: Gone to a closet or hallway to take a phone call: Almost 1 in 3 (31%);  Gone to the bathroom to take a phone call: 1 in 8 (12%); . . . Had difficulty finding a private area within their office to take a work-related call: More than 1 in 4 (27%);  Held back their true thoughts and opinions while on calls in the office because they don’t want co-workers to hear and judge them: Nearly 1 in 3 (31%).”  Also, “1 in 4 (27%) U.S. open office workers feel self-conscious on work-related calls because they feel as if their co-workers and bosses are eavesdropping, suggesting a lack of focus in the office.” Data were collected via an online poll of 4,037 adults in a nationally representative sample (which included 434 open office workers) in 2018 and through a 2018 online survey of 3,037 adults in New York, LA, Chicago, Boston, Philadelphia, Washington DC, Detroit, Seattle, San Francisco and Houston, with about 300 participants in each of these cities.

Room.  “2018 Open Office Woes Report.”  2018.  https://files.getroom.com/ROOM-2018-Open-Office-Woes-Report.pdf

Urban/regional planning seems to have political ramifications. Researchers from the University of Waterloo determined that “Urban planning decisions from decades past are likely a contributing factor to the rise of right-wing populism. . . . development patterns that led to the reliance on the automobiles may also be fueling political attitudes that favour comfort and convenience and resist sustainable development. . . . In reviewing the data, the researchers found that the increasing use of the automobile heavily influenced land-use decisions and life-style choices. The combination of automobile dependency and continued urban sprawl normalized economic and cultural norms associated with unsustainable suburban living.  It has also led to many suburbanites resisting calls for change that would impact them personally.”  The study detailing these findings. “Enduring Features of the North American Suburb: Built Form, Automobile Orientation, Suburban Culture and Political Mobilization,” was published in Urban Planning Open Access Journal.

“Urban Planning Policy Contributes to Political Polarization.”  2018. Press release, University of Waterloo, https://uwaterloo.ca/news/news/urban-planning-policy-contributes-politic...

Schutz and Stefanucci studied consumer preferences for product sounds.  They determined that “Interfaces play a crucial role in a device’s success or failure. Although visual aspects generally receive more attention, findings from sonic interaction design increasingly illustrate the importance of auditory aesthetics in creating desirable products. Here we show that small changes to the amplitude envelope (i.e., ‘sound shape’) of tones affect user preference. Specifically, participants are willing to pay 9% more for products using sounds with decaying-amplitude envelopes rather than abruptly ending envelopes that are common in many device sounds.”

Michael Schutz and Jeanine Stefanucci.  “Exploring the Effects of ‘Sound Shape’ on Consumer Preference.”  Ergonomics in Design, in press, https://doi.org/10.1177/1064804618810031

Research by Foraster and her team indicates the value of noise-conscious urban/regional planning and effective sound insulation.  The investigators determined that “Long-term exposure to road traffic noise over time may increase the risk of obesity. . . .we further identified a stronger association between road traffic noise and BMI [body mass index] among participants with cardiovascular disease and an association between railway noise and BMI among participants reporting bad sleep. Associations were independent of the other noise sources, air pollution.”

Maria Foraster, Ikenna Eze, Danielle Vienneau, Emmanuel Schaffner, Ayoung Jeong, Harris Heritier, Franziska Rudzik, Laurie Thiesse, Reto Pieren, Mark Brink, Christian Cajochen, Jean-Marc Wunderli, Martin Roosli, and Nicole Probst-Hensch. 2018.  “Long-Term Exposure to Transportation Noise and Its Association with Andiposity Markers and Development of Obesity.”  Environment International, vol. 121, part 1, pp. 879-889, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.envint/2018.09.057

Researchers have determined that the importance of sensory information received through various channels (via vision, touch, etc.) varies by culture.  As a press release from the University of York details, “the accepted hierarchy of human senses – sight [most important sense], hearing, touch, taste and smell [least important] – is not universally true across all cultures. . . . Researchers found that rather than being able to predict the importance of the senses from biology, cultural factors were most important. . . . cultures which placed particular value on their specialist musical heritage were able to communicate more efficiently on describing sounds, even when non-musicians were tested. Similarly, living in a culture that produces patterned pottery made people better able to talk about shapes. The findings could prove significant for a range of practices in education and other professions to help further enhance how people understand and utilise their sensory perceptions of the world.”

“Is There a Universal Hierarchy of Human Senses?” 2018.  Press release, University of York, https://www.york.ac.uk/news-and-events/news/2018/research/is-there-a-uni...

Bottalico studied noise levels in restaurants and their implications.  He reports that “Previous studies have demonstrated that uncomfortably loud levels of background noise can result in decreased customer satisfaction and business for the restaurant. . . . [study participants with normal hearing]read passages to a listener in the presence of typical restaurant noise . . . with the level varying between 35 dBA and 85 dBA. . . . to improve the acoustic environment of restaurants, background noise levels should be lower than 50-55 dB(A). This will minimize the vocal effort of patrons and the disturbance in their communication. Concurrently, this will increase business for the restaurant since patrons would be willing to spend more time and money to eat in a restaurant with a background noise lower than 50-55 dB(A).”

Pasquale Bottalico.  2018. “Lombard Effect in Restaurant Setting: How Much Would You Spend to Eat at This Restaurant.”   Presented November 8, 3018 Victoria British Columbia, Canada, at the Joint Meeting 176thASA Meeting and 2018 Acoustics Week in Canada, https://acoustics.org/4ans11-lombard-effect-in-restaurant-setting-how-mu...

Peeples has written a comprehensive, general press review of research on the implications of experiencing circadian lighting (or not), which is available free to all at the web address noted below.  Her work is a good introduction to circadian lighting for a non-technical audience. Peeples reports, for example that “there is little question that the study of human interaction with light is now in its heyday, and that the implications for our hopelessly indoor lives could be significant. . . . when optimally synchronized to natural light, our internal timekeepers direct our bodies to feel hungry, sleepy, alert, or energized at appropriate times. Too little light from the blue end of the visible spectrum during the day, or too much of that same light at night, research suggests, can cause an internal clock to slip off beat, setting off a cascade of potential consequences. These include not just poor sleep, reduced concentration, and contrarian moods, but over the long-term, increased risk of depression, diabetes, and cancer.”

Lynne Peeples. 2018.  “Age of Enlightenment:  The Promise of Circadian Lighting.”  https://undark.org/article/circadian-lighting-human-centric-lighting/

Mullenbach  and her team studied links between park location and features and public health. They determined that “Walkable access to parks, sufficient park acreage, and investments in park and recreation resources are 3 indicators of quality city park systems. . . . . Data were obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s 500 Cities Project, the Trust for Public Land’s City Park Facts Report, and the US Census Bureau. . . . Assessing the collective contribution of park access, park acreage, and investment suggests that improvements to a city’s composite score may correspond with greater physical activity.”  Higher scores resulted when parks were larger, better funded, and more accessible, for example.

Lauren Mullenbach, Andrew Mowen, and Birgitta Baker. 2018.   “Assessing the Relationship Between a Composite Score of Urban Park Quality and Health.”  Preventing Chronic Disease, in press, DOI:  http://dx.doi.org/10.5888/pcd15.180033

Vallance and team set out to determine if too much sitting is indeed as bad for us as smoking.  They learned that smoking seems to have more negative health implications than sitting, although sitting for more than 8 hours a day does have undesirable repercussions on our health.  The researchers report that “Sitting has frequently been equated with smoking, with some sources even suggesting that smoking is safer than sitting. . . . sitting and smoking are not comparable. The most recent meta-analysis of sedentary behavior and health outcomes reported a hazard ratio of 1.22 . . . for all-cause mortality. The relative risk (RR) of death from all causes among current smokers, compared with those who have never smoked, is 2.80 . . . for men and 2.76 for women. . . .  Sedentary behavior is any waking behavior characterized by an energy expenditure less than or equal to 1.5 metabolic equivalents (METs), while in a sitting, reclining, or lying posture. . . . According to studies that used device-based measures of sedentary behaviors, adults typically spend 9 hours per day sitting. Older adults are sedentary, on average, 10 hours per day. . . .promulgating direct comparisons of the health consequences of sitting and smoking is not recommended.”

Jeff Vallance, Paul Gardiner, Brigid Lynch, Adrijana D’Silva, Terry Boyle, Lorian Taylor, Steven Johnson, Matthew Buman, and Neville Owen.  2018.  “Evaluating the Evidence on Sitting, Smoking, and Health:  Is Sitting Really the New Smoking?”  American Journal of Public Health, vol. 108, no. 11, pp. 1478-1482,  DOI:  10.2105/AJPH.2018.304649

Bargenda studied the silent messages communicated by corporate architecture. She reports that , “Architecture intersects with micro-level and macro-level marketing systems, as it inherently projects corporate identity while referring to broader artistic, social and historical parameters. . . . Especially in the finance sector, the rapid shift toward digitalization, crypto-currencies and online banking have dematerialized financial marketing systems. To retain their material visibility and competitive positioning in the marketplace, banks increasingly set up flagship venues of significant symbolic and cultural value, while closing down non-descript neighborhood branches devoid of iconographic expression. . . . the production and valorization of creative, meaningful and value-laden architectural spaces accrue [increase] the cultural meanings of organizations. . . . Whether a bank is located in a traditional stone building, a contemporary high-rise building or a regional venue, built materiality conveys discernible brand values to stakeholders. . . . For instance, sustainable building materials project ecologically responsible brand values to stakeholders.”

Angela Bargenda. “Building Meaning:  Architectural Dialectic in Spatial Marketing Systems.” Journal of Macromarketing, in press, https://doi.org/10.1177/0276146718789232

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