Friday, September 17, 2010

Environmental Research and Evidence Based Design

I recently came across some material from the research team at the University of Montreal Faculty of Environmental Design headed by Professor Jacqueline Vischer PhD. The research group, the New Work Environments Research Group (GRET), has been active for more than ten years, focusing on a better built environment for people at work. Their research topics cover building performance measurement studies, occupant surveys related to functional comfort, and design considerations of the workplace of the future. In addition the research group maintains a website with links to publications as well as access to their Documentation Center of more than 800 articles.

One article on the website, Bridging the Gap Between Research and Design by Jacqueline Vischer and John Zeisel, explores the evolution of Evidence Based Design. They focus a good deal of attention on the way traditional pre-design programming and post occupancy evaluation affect the creation and use of research in the design process. These traditional opportunities, while not well or consistently implemented in current practice, are contrasted with Evidence Based Design processes to "bridge the gap" between research and practice.

There are many useful concepts in the article to aid in the understanding and development of a research based culture and design process. This quote regarding the value of research puts it well and I urge you to read the full article.

"Basing design decisions on research evidence lends a scientific case to professional design, eventually having a positive effect on clients' opinions of their designers (and on clients' willingness to pay for professional design services) in much the same way as other professions such as medicine and law are respected in our culture. As this proof - or evidence - accumulates, it must be stored and maintained for easy access and retrieval in the context of project applications, much as legal decisions and opinions are stored for legal practice and as medical practitioners in clinical practice now have EBM data electronically available."