Behavioural issues and their impact on the design of the built environment are an important topic for building services engineers and facilities managers, one where there is a definite appetite for better understanding, which was why it was a key area of focus at CIBSE’s Conference.
The event saw Professor Rhiannon Cocoran from the University of Liverpool consider how wellbeing is related to place; Professor Alexi Marmot from UCL look at factors affecting performance and productivity; and Polly Turton from Arup speak about how workspaces can be made more flexible and adaptable. Ann Marie Aguilar, also from Arup, give an insight into understanding behavioural responses to engineering and design.
|The 'Built for Living' panel at the 2015 CIBSE Conference and Exhibition|
The report is available to download at www.raeng.org.uk/publications/; it makes some interesting points relevant to those involved in the design and operation building services some of which are outlined below.
Good design is about developing an inclusive, user-centred solution which will work for the majority of a building’s occupants. However, a major challenge for designers looking to provide a user-centred focus is that there is no single agreed model of human behaviour that they can use.
|There is no guarantee that occupants will use a building as designed|
Since no single discipline or profession has all the necessary expertise a ‘Systems Thinking’ approach has been suggested as a way of enabling multidisciplinary collaboration. By helping identify how different parts of the system interact, designs can be developed to incorporate the complex interactions between buildings and the people that use them.
Some existing processes such as Soft Landings can provide a means for designers and constructors to enable a building to be designed to meet the end user’s needs. Soft Landings ensures occupant behaviour is included by involving the occupants at an early stage in scheme design. Participation is continued throughout the construction process and continues with involvement of the design and construction team beyond practical completion.
|Buildings need to be considered as large systems interacting with other systems|
including the occupants
Designers also need to be aware that the careful handover of a building is required to ensure the building works for them, while those maintaining the building understand how to actually make it work best for the users and to enable the building to perform to its maximum potential.
Eight practical principles for design have been proposed for use throughout a project, from architectural brief to final use. These are:
- View human behaviour in the built environment as a complex socio-technical system
- Use collaborative methods and tools to involve all key stakeholders, especially end users, throughout the design process
- Include behavioural issues from the very beginning of the design process, in particular making the behavioural assumptions explicit at the outset.
- During design, explicitly consider key characteristics of all users
- Make it easy, fun and engaging to create and sustain good habits
- Ensure the system gives users feedback at the right time and in the right format
- Empower users to handle problems with the system as they occur
- Learn and apply lessons from related domains
Incorporating these principles into a project should help improve design outcomes.
|It is good practice to make engaging in good habits fun and engaging for occupants|
Ultimately, people cannot be treated as components with predictable properties that can be engineered into a system because people often don’t behave in the ways designers expect. Instead, by increasing their focus on users’ behaviour building services engineers have an excellent opportunity to both improve the performance of buildings and the people in them.