Participatory design leads to sustainable result

Participatory design leads to sustainable result

An indoor environment design model has been developed within the framework of the Indoor Environment Program. The different parties from designers to space users participate in the related workshops at every phase of the project. This Human&Green operational model produces an indoor environment that is energy efficient and promotes wellbeing.

Mere improvement of the energy efficiency of a building does not lead to the overall best result because it ignores the energy consumption of space users. Redesign of spaces and energy analyses always go hand in hand and affect one another. Therefore, new design models that take into account this interaction are required.

The Human&Green operational model was developed in connection with a quite large university renovation project over three years involving a gross floor area in excess of 10,000 m2, a building volume of 40,000 m3, and over 200 staff. The leadership and key personnel were interviewed. Representatives of the space user groups took part in project workshops for the duration of the project. The organization and procedure changed along with the site and its phases.

As soon as the objectives of the project had been set, the management team formed, and the entire university informed of the matter, collection of user information was launched with the help of the Work Environment and Wellbeing Survey developed by the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health. It is especially well suited for analyzing distributed knowledge work and design of multispace offices and provided information on the space users and work requirements as well as wellbeing and productivity. The survey can also be made use of after the renovations.

A common language and communication were deemed vital for dissemination of information also in this connection:

– Experience has shown that space designers, architects and other construction professionals are not always capable of utilizing survey data in the best way, says Specialized Researcher, Project Manager Virpi Ruohomäki. – Therefore, we developed a visualization method for user experiences which allows indicating the responses to a survey for the entire building: in the 3D model negative experiences are in red and positive ones in green.

The model facilitated discussion and targeting of measures at all phases of the project. For instance, the sources of smell and noise could be easily located.

Everyone participates in the workshops

As part of the Human&Green operational model, VTT developed new indicators for understanding energy and space efficiency. They are still mainly analyzed separately although their interaction is clearly recognizable.

The heart of the operational model were the workshops. Their themes were established as the work progressed: the first one involved identifying work requirements and future space needs while the last one determined the use of new spaces and common rules for their use. Workshops lasted for half a day and were attended by future users, designers and the owner – typically around 30 people – who examined and discussed the results and outlined further measures.

– The workshops pondered the space needs of university staff and students as well as studied under expert guidance space and energy efficiency and their practical meaning. Space users brainstormed together new space arrangements and things like shared use of laboratories, Ruohomäki continues. – That enabled staff to utilize its know-how and expertise.

According to the operational model, attainment of the objectives of renovation is monitored through queries and interviews as well as a usability walkthrough a year after completion of the renovations.

– An operational model in which users take part opens new opportunities. It is future oriented because the modes of work and learning change constantly, Virpi Ruohomäki emphasizes.

– In the future, the model can also be used to develop work and learning environments beyond universities.

The scientific results of the Indoor Environment Program produced by the Human&Green project include 15 domestic and 10 international publications.

See also:

New participatory methods for workplace design

Visualization of perceived satisfaction on work environment