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Promoting Human-centered Architectural Design through Biometric Data and Virtual Response Testing

The process of designing the built environment is becoming more complex in today’s world, deviating from traditional paradigms. Current technology encourages designers to introduce more innovation into their work. While this innovation often leads to exciting and effective results, it also takes us away from tried-and-true solutions, into relatively uncharted territory. This opens up the possibility of design mistakes that can reduce, rather than improve, a building’s usefulness for its human occupants. Unfortunately, when innovative designs are created, it is difficult to accurately evaluate their full human effects, positive or negative, until after the buildings are constructed and put into use. This presents contemporary designers with a dilemma. How can we harness the best potential of the innovation allowed by today’s technology, while avoiding costly and potentially harmful mistakes?


The goal of this research is to examine the effects of building-design on human factors (stress, anxiety, visual memory, etc.), by measuring the responses of participants as they interact with different architectural designs using Virtual Reality technology. The researchers’ hypothesis is that virtual “test runs” can help designers to identify potential problems and successes in their work prior to its being physically constructed. The researchers’ primary objective is to create a standardized and intuitive toolset that can be used by designers to help evaluate their work. Electroencephalography (EEGs) will be used, along with other noninvasive biophysical measurements and self-reporting, to objectively analyze the participants’ conscious and subconscious responses to different building designs.

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This research examines the effects of the built environment on human stress and anxiety levels, by measuring the responses of participants as they interact with various architectural design features using Augmented Reality technology. Architectural form-making is becoming more dynamic and expressive in today’s world, deviating from traditional designs, especially in urban contexts. Current technology enables such forms to be created, but prior to their construction there is no easy way to determine how they might affect the stress levels of the people who experience the redesigned environment.The physical geography of cities is already known to have an effect on human well-being, and specific design issues have been correlated with negative health outcomes, including increased levels of anxiety. However, the positive or negative changes that can be induced through new designs are often just a matter of speculation. Our research helps to address this issue by developing a prototype interface to evaluate human-experience factors during the design review process. We conducted a pilot study to evaluate biometric data obtained from participants through an Augmented Reality experience, and parsed that data with respect to the participants’ personal backgrounds and other demographic information. The prototype toolset was developed based on three different architectural variables—shape, height, and visual pattern. The results from the experiment indicate there is a relationship between these architectural forms and stress levels. This research contributes to design pedagogy and practice, and it helps to show how continuous parametric form generation can be used to better reduce anxiety levels in future urban environments. 

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Research Team: Jesus Cruz Garza, James Rounds, Michael Darfler, Saleh Kalantari 

Year: Since 2017 

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