Predictable and reliable performance - from dream to reality

Caroline Paradise | 11 Apr 2017 | Comments

When it comes to consumer products, the days of ‘one size fits all’ are long gone. Now, we’re used to companies offering us a seemingly infinite number of choices, all intended to excite and delight us as customers.

With universities becoming more and more customer-focused, what’s the impact on how they design their estates and new buildings? Campuses are having to improve their offer to meet the increasingly demanding expectations of fee-paying students, academic staff and grant-awarding bodies.
Industries like the car manufacturing and consumer electronics have sophisticated ways of measuring their customers’ wants and needs. But when it comes to architecture and the built environment, how do we know what our customers really want?

It is accepted wisdom that great, new spaces can be inspirational and promote wellbeing and mindfulness. But how long does the effect persist, particularly when other factors - such as imminent exams - drive behaviours and perceptions. What will have a real and lasting impact on wellbeing and, more importantly, can we codify it so that we can mass produce it, reliably and efficiently, across the higher education sector?
At Atkins, we’ve taken Post Occupancy Evaluation (POE) seriously for some time. The award-winning Law School at Northumbria University is an example of how we engaged users to find out ‘how it was for them’. These exercises have given us a wealth of data to better understand how the spaces we design have an impact on occupant satisfaction and performance. We’re now on a mission to transform this data into information that can be embedded into our digital design tools. The world of BIM facilitate this, but we also need design tools that connect this information to our design outputs. 
With our development of a suite of tools as part of Atkins’ WellBriefing service, we bring together in-depth stakeholder engagement and specialist design expertise to early stage design decision-making. 

Our bespoke digital design software brings together a range of high level analyses - typically undertaken at a later stage in the design process, at a fraction of the cost, and includes:
•       Daylight access for building massing – quickly analyses options and their impact on the internal environment by façade or floor level
•       Solar access for open spaces/public realm – to assess the impact on thermal and visual comfort of external spaces
•       External views from the inside of buildings (known to promote wellbeing)

Maximising the opportunity provided by advances in computational design and analytics, WellBriefing allows our design teams to assess conceptual design strategies and evaluate the optimum balance between potential energy use, cost and the wellbeing of building users.

In this way the client can be given better advice through an integrated design development process from the very beginning of the project and is able to commission the final building to reflect their specific ambitions and end-user needs.

This same approach is being adopted for digital design tools to model the acoustic environment and air quality. What’s more, these approaches are already being used on live projects, including the £250m Ealing, Hammersmith and West London College redevelopment.
Combined with drive and vision from Clients and designers, the dream of efficiently designing people-centred buildings that perform predictably and reliably through the intelligent application of digital design tools is now within reach.