June 14, 2021

Designs that Improve User Experience, Health, & Productivity on Campus

Designs that Improve User Experience, Health, & Productivity on Campus

Posted by CMBA Architects on Mar 11, 2020 8:00:00 AM


What does it mean to design architecture for health and student, faculty, and staff productivity on campus? Not too long ago, concepts like these were considered pseudoscience. Now we know better; indoor aesthetics have a significant impact on health and performance. So, what does a college design strategy for health and productivity look like?

Views are Important.

The effect of a nice view runs deeper than aesthetics. The research on the effects that a view of nature has on our attention span and mood couldn't be clearer.

Better views to nature mean more productivity and attention which are proven to help students focus and do better in class. They can also help faculty and staff be more efficient at their jobs–and improve employee satisfaction!

Campus design focuses a lot on the exterior with greenspaces and areas to walk in a natural setting, but just viewing nature through a window–or even in a photograph–students will experience great benefits.

In fact, the phrase "attention restoration theory" (ART) has even been coined to explain how by providing images of nature and the outdoors–even when only demanding our “soft” or low-effort attention–you'll experience a restoring effect to your focused attention.

In simpler terms, science is backing up a rather intuitive understanding that we all have. Exposing ourselves to nature improves the way we feel and think. And the impact that has on student learning can’t be understated. Granted, there will be constraints on how nice your views are, but there are ways to improve the way people experience your views. Let's take a look at some of those.

Strategies for Establishing Better Views on Your Campus

Campus Layout
Depending on location, you may or may not have much control over the natural views around your college or university. Urban campuses sometimes have little control over what builds up around your campus. But you definitely have control over the way you design building form and depth. Paying attention to this aspect of design will help you establish opportunities for views to the outside. So, it's important to start thinking about your views from faculty work areas, classrooms, and staff facilities from the beginning.

Building Orientation and External Shading 
Your building’s orientation and shading for windows are extremely important features that can enhance views for all occupants. Providing external shading ensures that windows will be shaded from direct sun or glare, allowing the internal window coverings to stay up, preserving the view to the outside for your students, faculty, and staff.

Uniform Daylighting

Daylighting goes hand in hand with views. But there are some key aspects specific to daylighting that are worth pointing out...

More Glazing is not More Daylight
Glazing should be strategically located to maximize uniform daylight and minimize unwanted glare. Windows should be placed strategically to evenly reflect off vertical surfaces in offices, classrooms, and public spaces. This will brighten the surfaces and your space feel well lit.

The Impact of Surface Reflectance
If you don't want to add any more windows, then something else to consider would be the surface reflectance of the materials in your space. By strategically locating more reflective surfaces, you can see a great increase in daylight perception without adding any more windows. And that indirect daylight will help students focus and learn better; and increase satisfaction and mood among faculty and staff.

Designing for Well-being in Higher Ed

It doesn't have to be terribly difficult to design for increased well-being and student performance once you clearly define the goal. The connection between thriving and the way we design our physical spaces definitely exists—especially when it comes to teaching and learning. Now we must make the most of this knowledge to enhance the productivity, attentiveness, and well-being of the users who'll live with our designs on college campuses for decades to come.

Topics: Higher-Ed-General