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Donovan and colleagues investigated how tree cover and road density influence academic performance.  They “examined the association between individual [pupil]-level standardized . . . reading test scores and exposure to the natural environment using data from Portland Public Schools. . .19,459 students attending 90 schools for the reading model. . . . A 1-SDincrease in tree cover within 100 m[eters] of a child’s school was associated with moving from the 50th percentile to the 56th percentile on reading tests. . . . a 1-SDincrease in road density within 100 m of a child’s home was associated with moving from the 50th percentile to the 47th percentile on reading tests. . . . The magnitude of the association we found between tree cover and reading scores is policy relevant.”  “SD” is the abbreviation of “standard deviation;” standard deviations are defined and discussed here:

Geoffrey Donovan, Yvonne Michael, Demetrios Gatziolis, and Robert Hoyer. “The Relationship Between the Natural Environment and Individual-Level Academic Performance in Portland, Oregon.” Environment and Behavior, in press,

Nute and Chen investigated associations to architectural elements. Participants in their research project looked at line drawings of spaces; findings from a preliminary study indicate that “rooms that include sloping ceilings . . . and views of other spaces are positively associated with feelings of nostalgia. . . and optimism respectively. . . . A sloping ceiling was found to be positively associated with the past in general and with nostalgia in particular. . . .Increasing the size of an internal window into an adjacent room increased positive associations with the future, including feelings of encouragement, looking forward, opportunity, and optimism.”

Kevin Nute and Zhuo Chen.  2018. “Temporal Cues in Built Environments.” The International Journal of the Constructed Environment, vol. 9, no. 1, no pagination,

Boubekri and colleagues make a health-based case for designing access to natural light into structures.  As they report, “daylight . . . is vital to our lives. . . . impacting circadian rhythm and . . . producing vitamin D through our skin. . . . buildings play a significant role in controlling how much daylight people are exposed to. . . . Zoning regulations ought to be concerned with the fact that without sufficient daylight in the street, it is not possible to have sufficient daylight inside our buildings. . . .  Urban design and urban zoning legislation are as important as the building itself. . . . Building designers and developers need to provide architectural solutions that give building users the opportunity to access unfiltered sunlight by providing balconies and terraces without having to leave the buildings.  Only direct contact of the skin with the sun produces the vitamin D levels that we need on a daily basis.”

Mohamed Boubekri, Nastaran Shishegar, and Thulasi Khamma. 2017. “Sustainability with Health in Mind:  A Case for Daylighting.”  International Journal of the Constructed Environment, vol. 8, no. 2, no pagination, DOI:  10.18848/2154-8587/CGP/v08i02/1-13

Seresinhe, Preis, and Moat wondered what made an outdoor space beautiful.  To answer their question the team “explore[d] whether ratings of over 200 000 images of Great Britain from the online game Scenic-Or-Not, combined with hundreds of image features extracted using the Places Convolutional Neural Network, might help us understand what beautiful outdoor spaces are composed of. We discover that, as well as natural features such as ‘Coast’, ‘Mountain’ and ‘Canal Natural’, man-made structures such as ‘Tower’, ‘Castle’ and ‘Viaduct’ lead to places being considered more scenic. Importantly, while scenes containing ‘Trees’ tend to rate highly, places containing more bland natural green features such as ‘Grass’ and ‘Athletic Fields’ are considered less scenic.”

Chanuki Seresinhe, Tobias Preis, and Helen Moat.  2017. “Using Deep Learning to Quantify the Beauty of Outdoor Places.”  Royal Society Open Science, vol. 4, no. 170170, DOI: 10.1098/rsos170170

Lusk, Filho, and Dobbert studied the landscaping preferences of pedestrians and bicyclists.  The team report that “To increase levels of biking while improving safety, cities around the world have started building barrier-protected bicycle-exclusive cycle tracks between the sidewalk and the street. . . . pedestrians and cyclists [were asked about] their preferences about whether trees should be planted and . . . preferred locations on the sidewalk/cycle track they were using. . . . trees were preferred. Trees with bushes between the cycle track and the street/parked cars were most preferred . . . and trees between the cycle track and the street parked/cars were second most preferred. . . . Participants also indicated that trees and bushes located between the cycle track and street/parked cars were best at blocking perception of traffic . . . lessening the perception of pollution exposure . . . and making the participant feel cooler.”

Anne Lusk, Demostenes Filho, and Lea Dobbert.  “Pedestrian and Cyclist Preferences for Tree Locations by Sidewalks and Cycle Tracks and Associated Benefits:  Worldwide Implications from a Study in Boston, MA.”  Cities, in press,

Flouri and colleagues set out to learn how exposure to nature affects children’s spatial working memory, which has “a strong correlate of academic achievement.”  The researchers compared the spatial working memories of nearly 5,000 11-year olds living in neighborhoods that were relatively more or less green.  The research team found that when“Greenspace was measured as the percentage of greenery in the child's ward.  Even after controlling for confounders [poverty, parental education, sports participation, neighbourhood deprivation, and neighbourhood history], lower quantity of neighbourhood greenspace was related to poorer spatial working memory. . . . lower quantity of greenspace was related to poorer spatial working memory similarly in deprived and non‐deprived neighbourhoods.. . . Children living in greener urban neighbourhoods have better spatial working memory.”

Eirini Flouri, Efstathios Papachristou, and Emily Midouhas.  “The Role of Neighbourhood Greenspace in Children’s Spatial Working Memory.”  British Journal of Educational Psychology, in press,

Lindberg, Tran and Banasiak used an online survey to study how personality influences responses to office design.  The research team defined extraversion as “the degree to which one is outgoing and social, while neuroticism is a measure of negative emotionality (versus emotional stability and even-temperedness) and is positively correlated with anxiety and unhappiness.”  The Lindberg lead team determined that “difference in exposure [to others, as in an open workplace] had relatively little effect on perceived control for individuals in the low neuroticism category, but individuals in the high neuroticism category felt much less control in an exposed work space than in a more enclosed work space.” Additional findings related to extraversion and office design: “While the results were not significant [they are very close to significant].  . . . individuals scoring high on extroversion rated their performance in enclosed and exposed work-space environments similarly . . . while individuals scoring low on extroversion [these people were relatively more introverted] rated their performance in enclosed environments higher than their performance in exposed environments.”  The researchers concludes that their “findings question the widely held architectural design assumption that physical proximity and open office designs are desirable for social interaction and, consequently, improved communication and innovation.”

Casey Lindberg, Diemtrinh Tran, and Meredith Banasiak.  2016. “Individual Differences in the Office: Personality Factors and Work-Space Enclosure.”  Journal of Architectural and Planning Research, vol. 33, no. 2, pp. 105-120.

Spaces outside traditional workplaces once seen as “novel” or “unusual” places to work are increasingly being accepted as customary work environments. Jain, Clayton, and Bertle reported on August 30 at the Royal Geographical Society Annual International Conference that “commuters use free Wi-Fi provision on their journey to and from work to 'catch up' with work emails, paving the way for the commute to be counted as work. . . . A total of 5000 passengers [on British trains] were surveyed. . . . Many respondents expressed how they consider their commute as time to 'catch up' with work, before or after their traditional working day. . . . .in Norway some commuters are able to count travel time as part of their working day.”  The press release concludes that if travel time is counted as part of the work day trains should “offer a good working environment including tables, power, space and good continuous connectivity for internet and phone calls.”

“New Research Shows Why the Commute Should Be Counted as Part of the Working Day.”  2018.  Press release, University of the West of England,

Research continues to indicate that work groups’ relative locations influence the performance of employees.  Sunkee Lee, a Carnegie Mellon University professor, studied a corporation in South Korea (whose employees had assigned seats) that relocated:  “In the old building, six teams . . . were seated in one area, while six other . . .teams sat in another one; the two groups were separated by a common entrance. . . . in the new location . . .nine of them were situated in one open area and three in another, with a common entrance in between. The two spaces were identical in terms of decoration, lighting, equipment, distances between teams and workstations, and proximity to management.” After the relocation, the quality of the work of employees in the area with more teams improved dramatically as did the revenue they generated.  Lee believes that “physical proximity promotes trust and the exchange of valuable and novel knowledge between newly met peers.’”  Lee reports that the relocated individuals did not work directly with their new neighbors and “they were inspired by overheard dialogue and informal conversations to shift from ‘incremental’ to ‘radical’ creativity and increased sales as a result.”

“Why You Should Rotate Office Seating Assignments.”  2018.  Harvard Business Review,

Hartstein and colleagues learned that preschool-age children, older children, and adults can respond in similar ways to lighting.  The researchers determined that “studies show that exposure to higher correlated color temperature (CCT) ambient light, containing more blue light, can positively impact alertness and cognitive performance in older children and adults. . . . In this study, healthy children aged 4.5–5.5 years . . . completed measures of sustained attention and task switching twice while being exposed to LED light set to either 3500K (a lower CCT) or 5000K (a higher CCT). A control group . . . completed the tasks twice under only the 3500K lighting condition. . . . exposure to the higher CCT light lead to greater improvement in preschool-age children’s task switching performance. . . . Children in the control group showed a 6.5% increase in task switching accuracy between time points, whereas those in the experimental group improved by 15.2%. . . . These data have implications for designing learning environments.”  For the preschool-age children, the lighting conditions didn’t influence sustained attention.

Lauren Hartstein, Monique LeBourgeois, and Neil Berthier. 2018. “Light Correlated Color Temperature and Task Switching Performance in Preschool-Age Children:  Preliminary Insights.”  PloS ONE, vol. 13, no. 8, e0202973,


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