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Using the stairs instead of an elevator helps us keep trim and saves energy—and stairway design and placement, for instance, can boost the likelihood we’ll take the stairs.  New research supplies another reason to encourage stair use via design – we feel energized after walking up and down stairs.  Investigators have found that “10 minutes of walking up and down stairs at a regular pace was more likely to make participants feel energized than ingesting 50 milligrams of caffeine-about the equivalent to the amount in a can of soda. . . . [Patrick J. O'Connor, a professor in the department of kinesiology and former graduate student Derek Randolph, who co-authored this study] wanted to compare an exercise that could be achieved by people in an office setting, where they have access to stairs and a little time to be active, but not enough time to change into workout gear, shower and change back into work clothes. ‘Office workers can go outside and walk, but weather can be less than ideal. It has never rained on me while walking the stairs,’ said O'Connor. . . . Study participants were . . . college students who described themselves as chronically sleep deprived-getting less than 6½ hours per night. . . . Neither caffeine nor exercise caused large improvements in attention or memory, but stair walking was associated with a small increase in motivation for work. . . . even a brief bout of stair walking can enhance feelings of energy without reducing cognitive function.”  Study results are published in Physiology and Behavior.

“Skip the Caffeine, Opt for the Stairs to Feel More Energized.”  2017.  Press release, University of Georgia,

Hoendervanger and his colleagues studied activity-based work (ABW) environments because “Despite their growing popularity among organisations, satisfaction with activity-based work (ABW) environments is found to be below expectations. Research also suggests that workers typically do not switch frequently, or not at all, between different activity settings.” Via questionnaires filled out by thousands of people working in ABW environments the team learned that “Satisfaction ratings of the 4 per cent of the respondents who switched several times a day appeared to be significantly above average. Switching frequency was found to be positively related to heterogeneity of the activity profile [diversity of activities], share of communication work and external mobility [so, for example, more diversity of activities was linked to more switching]. . . . Our findings suggest that satisfaction with ABW environments might be enhanced by stimulating workers to switch more frequently. However, as strong objections against switching were observed and switching frequently does not seem to be compatible with all work patterns, this will presumably not work for everyone. Many workers are likely to be more satisfied if provided with an assigned (multifunctional) workstation.”

Jan Hoendervanger, Iris De Been, Nico Van Yperen, Mark Mobach, and Casper Albers.  2016.  “Flexibility In Use:  Switching Behaviour and Satisfaction in Activity-Based Work Environments.”  Journal of Corporate Real Estate, vol. 18, no. 1, pp. 48-62.

A study published in Applied Geography links well-kept vacant lots and lower crime levels.  Researchers found that “Maintaining the yards of vacant properties helps reduce crime rates in urban neighborhoods.”  Data were collected over 9 years in Flint, Michigan:   “’We’ve always had a sense that maintaining these properties helps reduce crime and the perception of crime,’ said Christina Kelly, the land bank’s [Genesee County Land Bank Authority] planning and neighborhood revitalization director. ‘So we weren’t surprised to see the research back it up.’”  Findings were also not unexpected because “Earlier studies have shown that greening and gardening programs in general are linked to less stress, depression and hopelessness for residents, as well as lower crime rates, including assaults, burglaries and robberies.”  The researchers believe that the relationship between lot condition and crime may be due to the fact that maintaining the lots “alert[s] potential criminals that residents are keeping an eye on things.”

“Well-Kept Vacant Lots Can Help Reduce Crime.”  2017.  Press release, Michigan State University,

Millennial leaders’ responses to workplaces were investigated via a recent study.  A podcast sponsored by Wharton featured Ron Williams and Rebecca Ray; Williams and Ray, who are both executives with The Conference Board, discussed research that group did with Millennial leaders.  The introduction to the transcript of part of that podcast reports that investigators determined that these Millennials “are more like the older generation than originally thought, and the current differences are mainly due to the life stage that they are in.”  Ray states that “Millennial leaders don’t necessarily like the open workspace that has become a fad the last few years.” She continues: “CEOs, generally speaking, thought that was a more important element of workforce design than did millennials. And in fact, millennials and non-millennial leaders — regardless of generation — were less enamored of the open floor plan. They were also less enamored of flatter organizational structures. I think what they all wanted — and both millennial leaders and non-millennial leaders ranked these things higher than did CEOs — were flexible policies for vacation and work schedules, and then more flexible options for working remotely and collaborating virtually.”  Williams adds that open offices “came out of the technology sector, particularly on the West Coast. It tended to have more informal and collegial environments. The big difference is those are software development companies where getting the user of the software and the developer in the same space, iterating back and forth in an agile development way, really contributes lots of value. That’s really different from other types of industries, where people sometimes need to put their heads down and actually concentrate on what they are doing.”

“How Millennials Will Lead the C-Suite.”  2017.  Podcast/Transcript,

Won, Lee, and Li studied links between walkability and foreclosure spillover effects (such as property prices declining near foreclosures).  They determined that “property values in walkable neighborhoods were less subject to foreclosure spillover, but this was only significant for middle/high-income neighborhoods. Walkable neighborhoods were shown to offer more advantages in maintaining neighborhood stability during the recovery of 2013 than in the market crash of 2010. This study supports development strategies and policies that include walkability to achieve neighborhood stability and livability.”

Jaewoong Won, Chanam Lee and Wei Li.  “Are Walkable Neighborhoods More Resilient to the Foreclosure Spillover Effects?”  Journal of Planning Education and Research, in press.

A team lead by Heo has found more evidence that seeing blue light, particularly at night, is energizing.  The researchers “investigated the immediate effects of smartphone blue light LED on humans at night. . . . Each subject played smartphone games with either conventional LED or suppressed blue light from 7:30 to 10:00PM (150 min). Then, they were readmitted and conducted the same procedure with the other type of smartphone. . . . use of blue light smartphones was associated with significantly decreased sleepiness . . . and confusion-bewilderment . . . and increased commission error.”

J. Heo, K. Kim, M. Fava, D. Mischoulon, G. Papakostas, M. Kim, D. Kim, K. Chang, Y. Oh, B. Yu, and H. Jeon.  2017.  “Effects of Smartphone Use With and Without Blue Light at Night in Healthy Adults:  A Randomized, Double-Blind, Cross-Over, Placebo-Controlled Comparison.”  Journal of Psychiatric Research, vol. 87, pp. 61-70.

DiGiacomo lead a study that assessed how the location of recycling and composting bins influences their use.  Details: “[the researchers] placed bins in three different locations: a garbage disposal area (the least convenient option), at the base of an elevator in a building (a more convenient option), and by elevator doors on each floor (the most convenient option). The experiments were carried out at three multi-family apartment buildings in Vancouver’s west side neighbourhood and in two student residence buildings at UBC. . . . when compost bins were placed on each floor in the apartment buildings, instead of on the ground floor, composting rates increased by 70 per cent, diverting 27 kilograms of compost from the landfill per unit per year. When recycling stations were placed just 1.5 meters from suites in student residences, instead of in the basement, recycling and composting increased by an average of 141 per cent, diverting an average of nearly 20 kilograms of waste from the landfill per person per year.”  Data were collected over 10 weeks.  This study has been published in the Journal of Environmental Planning and Management.

“Making Bins More Convenient Boosts Recycling and Composting Rates.”  2017.  Press release, The University of British Columbia,

Romero and Biswas learned that to encourage consumption, healthier options should be placed to the left of unhealthier ones.  Their work determined that “displaying healthy items to the left (vs. right) of unhealthy items enhances preference for the healthy options. In addition, consumption volume of a healthy item (vis-à-vis an unhealthy item) is higher when it is placed to the left (vs. right) of the unhealthy item. We propose that a ‘healthy-left, unhealthy-right’ (vs. healthy-right, unhealthy- left) lateral display pattern is congruent with consumers’ mental organization of food items varying in healthfulness, which enhances ease of processing and in turn enhances self-control, thereby leading to a relatively higher likelihood of choosing healthy options. . . . The findings of our research have important implications for designing retail food displays and restaurant menus.”

Marisabel Romero and Dipayan Biswas.  2016.  “Healthy-Left Unhealthy-Right:  Can Displaying Healthy Items to the Left (Versus Right) of Unhealthy Items Nudge Healthier Choices?”  Journal of Consumer Research, vol. 43, no. 1, pp. 103-112.

De Groot, Semin, and Smeets provide additional information about how scents influence how we interact with each other.  Since current, generally available, technologies do not support human communication via smells, face-to-face meetings will remain important for the foreseeable future.  As de Groot and his team report “Humans use multiple senses to navigate the social world, and the sense of smell is arguably the most underestimated one.  An intriguing aspect of the sense of smell is its social communicative function.  Research has shown that human odors convey information about a range of states (e.g., emotions, sickness) and traits (e.g., individuality, gender).”

Jasper de Groot, Gun Semin, and Monique Smeets.  2017.  “On the Communicative Function of Body Odors:  A Theoretical Integration and Review.”  Perspectives on Psychological Science, vol. 12, no. 2, pp. 306-324.

At the web address below, the Center for the Built Environment at Berkeley shares a free tool for evaluating thermal comfort.

As the web page introducing the tool states, the CBE’s objectives were, in part, to “Develop a web-based graphical user interface for thermal comfort prediction according to ASHRAE Standard 55. Include models for conventional building systems (predicted mean vote) and also for comfort using the adaptive comfort model, and with increased air speeds (for example, when using fans for cooling).”

The CBE reports on the same website that “The standard convention of attempting to maintain a narrow temperature band can be an energy-intensive practice. Instead, using CBE’s comfort prediction tools with ASHRAE Standard-55 as a guide, designers may find that a wider temperature band will provide adequate comfort and save a significant amount of energy. . . . the tool can be used to assess the comfort of low-energy designs.  A building that has provisions for air-movement (such as ceiling fans or desk fans) can use the predicted mean vote (PMV) model with elevated airspeed. In a naturally ventilated building, the adaptive comfort model can be used. This tool . . . verif[ies] compliance with ASHRAE Standard 55-2013.”  The thermal comfort of various scenarios can be compared.

The CBE thermal comfort tool is available at:


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