Designing buildings for people | REGULAR | Royal Architectural Institute of Canada

Designing buildings for people | REGULAR

SKU: WW210407
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Based on research of post-occupancy evaluations from several hundred offices and apartments, this webinar explores designing and operating buildings to optimize occupant comfort, building usability, and energy performance.

Designing buildings for people

Webday Wednesday Series

Topics:Design / Wellness

Length: 1 hour

What's included: video, quiz, certificate of completion

Available to stream!


With a trend towards greater building automation, occupant needs and preferences during the design process are often forgotten. Meanwhile, occupants are often distrusted because of their seemingly irrational behaviours, whereas they merely want to restore comfort. Based on the literature and findings of post-occupancy evaluations from several hundred offices and apartments, this talk is focused on designing and operating buildings to optimize occupant comfort, building usability, and energy performance. The talk will provide humourous anecdotes, strange findings, and some general lessons learned and future recommendations.

The relationship between people, comfort, and building performance is complex and worthy of further discussion. For example, the four forms of indoor environmental quality -indoor air quality, thermal comfort, visual comfort, and acoustic comfort- interact with each other. Many design decisions affect multiple forms of IEQ, meaning that a good intention may have unintended consequences. Meanwhile, designers much consider occupants’ perception of control over the indoor environment. Despite the trend towards automation, it is important to give occupants adaptive opportunities so that they can personalize indoor conditions to suit their needs. Physiology aside, occupants tend to report greater satisfaction with the indoor environment if they have control over it.

Building interfaces -the systems that sit between occupants and building systems- are also a critical area of design. Many modern interfaces are opaque, difficult to use, and provide little feedback to occupants. The talk will discuss the key characteristics of interfaces to make them usable and effective. Ultimately, if buildings and their interfaces are not usable, occupants will be frustrated and/or uncomfortable, and building performance is likely to suffer as a result.

The last major theme of this presentation is on people as sensors. Rather than using simplistic physical measurements to predict whether occupants are comfortable, we can and should get direct feedback from occupants. Various methods are explored to capture on-going or one-time feedback from occupants to inform building design and operations. The aim of the talk is to provide the audience with practical methods that they can apply to their own projects.

Learning Objectives:

At the conclusion of this session, participants will be able to:

  1. Understand how building design affects occupant comfort
  2. Define and explain the four types of indoor environmental quality
  3. Analyze the usability of buildings and their interfaces
  4. Explain how occupants impact energy performance of buildings
  5. Apply practical methods to obtain feedback from occupants about their satisfaction and comfort

Subject Matter Expert

Potrait of Liam O'Brien

Liam O'Brien
Ph.D. (Concordia), P.Eng.
Associate Professor, Civil and Environmental Engineering | Carleton University

Corporate Sponsor VELUX

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