Beyond Structural Design: Environmental Psychology

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The shape of the room you are in. The height of the ceiling. The lighting fixtures in your office. Whether or not your office window’s open. The width of the corridors. All of those design elements affect how comfortable you feel in a building and how productive you can be in an office space or how comfortable you may feel in a public space. That is the power of environmental psychology, and it’s an essential aspect of the overall building design.

Environmental psychology is: “the study and application by behavioral scientists and architects of how changes in physical space and related physical stimuli impact people’s behavior. In short, it means that the way a building is laid out and designed has profound effects on how one works, interacts and handles the pressures of the space. This goes for just about any building from office to municipal spaces to even a home’s layout. The job of an environmental psychologist is to help maximize the effectiveness of a space by making recommendations that help make the space more efficient and easier to use.” This can be done by addressing factors that affect the overall environment of its users such as lighting, which can affect the mood of workers; ceiling heights, which can reduce feeling of crowding; well thought out building partitions; and even the shape of a room.

The field of environmental psychology is specifically directed towards influencing the work of design professionals like architects, engineers, interior designers and urban planners with one goal in mind: to improve the human environment. At IES, though our primary role as structural and civil engineers is to ensure the quality and the safety of a physical space, collaboration with architects and designers is of utmost importance to allow for the building’s intended environment to emerge within the built structure.

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