There’s been a lot of talk over the past 20 years about evidence-based design. EBD is the idea that improvements to the design of buildings, particularly to their interior spaces—more daylight, improved air quality, better lighting—can have a positive effect on human health and performance.
The problem with EBD is that it’s very hard to conduct truly rigorous scientific studies on humans. Was it the improved lighting that enabled students to boost their test scores, or was it better airflow in the classroom? Did that hospital patient heal more quickly because she had a window with a view to the outside, or was she just a fast healer? Too many variables, not enough controls, so it’s anybody’s guess how much, if anything, the design contributed to the outcome.
The Mayo Clinic and Delos, the developer of the Well Building Standard, have teamed up to bridge this information gap. They have built a 7,500-sf laboratory at Mayo’s Rochester, Minn., campus, where researchers will perform sophisticated, reproducible (that’s important) scientific studies on design’s impact on human health and performance. The goal, according to Delos COO Peter Scialla, is to expand the concept of environmental sustainability to embrace what he calls “biological sustainability.”
The Well Living Lab, designed by Centerbrook Architects & Planners (with Knutson Construction as CM), has six experimental modules that can be formed into a variety of indoor spaces: an open-plan or closed office floor, a kitchen, a hotel or hospital room, a classroom, etc. The walls, floors, ceilings, fixtures, and plumbing—yes, even the plumbing—can be completely reconfigured.
The Well Living Lab has six experimental modules that can be formed into a variety of indoor spaces, including an office, kitchen, and hotel room.
The modules, as well as the furniture, casework, and finishings, are loaded with sensors so that test subjects’ responses can be captured without having to attach wire leads to them. For example, bed sensors will determine a person’s lying-down position and how much pressure is being exerted on specific body parts—information that one day could lead to ways to relieve bed sores in long-term hospital patients, or just give weary hotel guests a better night’s sleep.
In certain studies participants will wear sensor-enabled wristbands or clothing to gauge heart rate, galvanic skin response, motion, skin and near-body temperature, respiration, and physical posture.
Sensors embedded in walls, ceilings, appliances, and fabrics will measure factors like sound, street noise, room temperature, humidity, air particulates, and light (including spectral power density). High-definition cameras will zoom in on test subjects to record facial expressions and gestures.
Research experiments will test the effect of single or multiple variables, such as air quality, supplied lighting, and daylighting, on subjects’ stress, fitness, nutrition, eating habits, performance in cognitive and physical skills, and sleep. Further down the line, building product manufacturers may be able to use the lab to test the efficacy of their products on human health. All this activity will be managed and documented from a high-tech control room.
The Well Living Lab is an important breakthrough in environmental design. If it lives up to even a fraction of its promise, it could provide designers of hospitals, outpatient medical facilities, schools, university classrooms, hotels, and office spaces with scientifically valid data to produce designs that really do contribute to human health and performance. Real science, not wishful thinking.
Experiments are scheduled to begin in the next couple of months, once the Well Living Lab has completed its break-in period.
Central control room
Sensors embedded in walls, ceilings, appliances, and fabrics measure factors like sound, street noise, room temperature, humidity, air particulates, and light.
Transportation & Parking Facilities | Mar 23, 2023
Amsterdam debuts underwater bicycle parking facility that can accommodate over 4,000 bikes
In February, Amsterdam saw the opening of a new underwater bicycle parking facility. Located in the heart of the city—next to Amsterdam Central Station and under the river IJ (Amsterdam’s waterfront)—the facility, dubbed IJboulevard, has parking spots for over 4,000 bicycles, freeing up space on the street.
AEC Innovators | Mar 3, 2023
Meet BD+C's 2023 AEC Innovators
More than ever, AEC firms and their suppliers are wedding innovation with corporate responsibility. How they are addressing climate change usually gets the headlines. But as the following articles in our AEC Innovators package chronicle, companies are attempting to make an impact as well on the integrity of their supply chains, the reduction of construction waste, and answering calls for more affordable housing and homeless shelters. As often as not, these companies are partnering with municipalities and nonprofit interest groups to help guide their production.
AEC Tech Innovation | Jan 24, 2023
ConTech investment weathered last year’s shaky economy
Investment in construction technology (ConTech) hit $5.38 billion last year (less than a 1% falloff compared to 2021) from 228 deals, according to CEMEX Ventures’ estimates. The firm announced its top 50 construction technology startups of 2023.
Game Changers | Oct 4, 2019
Call to action: BD+C is looking for the industry’s next game-changing projects
Is your firm working on a project that could be the next advance in design, engineering, technology, or construction? If so, send us information about it for possible inclusion in our upcoming “Game Changers” feature.
Game Changers | Jan 17, 2019
The coming bonanza in marijuana facilities
AEC firms are rushing to fill orders for cannabis facilities in the 33 states where the sale of marijuana is now legal.
Game Changers | Jan 16, 2019
In the age of Amazon there's nowhere to go but up
Multistory warehouses could help speed ecommerce delivery in urban centers.
Game Changers | Jan 15, 2019
IPD super teams hit jackpot for clients
Meet the firms achieving double-digit returns using true, shared-risk, multi-party integrated project delivery.
Game Changers | Jan 9, 2019
Developers invest in mega amenities to draw top-notch tenants
As the competition for highly coveted tenants and patrons heats up, developers take the amenities arms race to new extremes.
Game Changers | Jan 17, 2018
Is farming ready to grow up?
Armed with the latest agri-tech and millions in VC funding, vertical farming startups believe they’ve cracked the code on indoor farming.
Game Changers | Jan 16, 2018
Shape shifters: Kinetic architecture allows buildings to perform beyond their intended purpose
Kinetic architecture can bring practical and aesthetic value to an already ambitious project.