Natural light and landscaping are two aspects of projects. The research referred to indicates how these effects can be enhanced by design operating on all levels, translating human bodily motion into dynamic perception.
Stephen Kellert 2008. This study analyses the most common demands of workers in relation to their workplace: 1. Need for change in the space (temperature, air, light, etc.) 2. Possibility of acting on the space and recording any changes made 3. Dynamic and stimulating input (stagnant space causes stress) 4. Individual management of the area enhances identity, security and protection 5. View outside.
The increased use of smartphones is directly related to a decline in attention, resulting in greater stress and cardiovascular damage. A stimulating, dynamic space focuses attention at the various times of day when it is required and also facilitates mind-wandering while relaxing, when the brain needs to synthesise experiences as it transfers and stores memories coming from our emotions in its long-term memory.
2011, University of Oregon Administration by Ihab Elzeyadi (University of Oregon School of Architecture) 10% drop in absenteeism: offices facing three different directions. The occupants of offices overlooking a park and groups of trees were on average 10% less absent from the office. Further tests and research showed that these figures were mainly due to the different settings outside the offices.
Peter Kahn and others 2008 Three groups of thirty people. Test: time required for heart rate to return to normal after been subjected to slight stress. 3 different settings: natural setting, same setting on HD screen, and wall of an inside building. A view of nature helps it return to normal more quickly. The study suggests that a decrease in mental fatigue increases attention and productivity.
The dynamic flow of nature is vital: a stagnant, motionless space severely reduces people’s emotional involvement. In the study, motion is associated with all the human senses, not just sight.
USA Bureau of Labor Statistics (2011) _ Mind Wandering and attendance. A decline in work performance can be caused by sleepiness, headaches, cold or dry temperatures due to poor air quality. This phenomenon causes a loss of 938 dollars per person in the private sector and 1250 in the public sector. Natural light, a view outside, dynamic space and the presence of nature, reduce mental fatigue and stress while boosting attention. Absenteeism and attendance. USA Bureau of Labour estimates that these two phenomena account for 4% of the total expenses of a public or private company.
Sacramento Municipal Services Department, Call Center. Lisa Heschong and Vivian Loftness 2003-2008. Research has shown that the difference in performance at work between two groups of call centre operators: one group with a view through a large glass window across a garden and a second group working facing inside the building. The first group handled calls on average 6/7% faster than the second group. The annual cost per person was $2990. By investing $1000 per person, it is estimated that the costs will be covered in four months and then productivity will be increased and electricity costs of lighting reduced.
In another study from 2007, Vivian Loftness showed that a stagnant or relatively unstimulating space can lead to staff resigning from their jobs. Loftness estimated that it would cost a company $25,875 to find a replacement. A space that cares for people and gets them emotionally involved is also seen as a corporate benefit that can make a real difference in terms of attracting people to companies adopting these guidelines for designing their offices.
The case of the headquarters of the Bank of America in Manhattan is exemplary in this respect: they decided to make 90% of their offices overlook a park, river or landscaped rooftops, in order to create an ideal environment for attracting the most talented people.
In 2010 Julian Thayer carried out a study to analyse the effects workplaces can have on stress levels and coronary disease. He measured the stress hormone levels in two groups of workers and discovered that extremely stagnant environments with very little light and poor air quality produced higher hormone levels for stress and headaches than well-lit, dynamic spaces. The costs associated with coronary disease in the USA amount to $108 billion. Some of these costs are surely due to the poor quality of architectural space.
Finally, there is the 1978 case of ING Bank’s new headquarters in Amsterdam. They decided to maximise the use of natural light, create dynamic spaces, decorate their premises with artworks and incorporate areas containing water and vegetation. Absenteeism in the new offices was reduced by 15%, corresponding to energy savings of $2.6 million a year. ING Bank’s new image also resulted in it enhancing its position from being the fourth to the second biggest bank in Holland from a financial viewpoint.
Roger Ulrich 1984 – 46 cholecystectomy operations, Pennsylvania from 1972-1981, 23 patients assigned to rooms with a park view and 23 to rooms facing inwards. The patients with a park view took almost one day less to recover than the standard nine days of the other patients. Fewer night call-outs and less use of analgesics. William Broowing estimates that, at an average cost of $5000 a day for their hospital stay, the government would have spent $115,000 less on those patients. The same percentage decrease applied to the average hospital stay may be estimated as corresponding to 0.5 days less per operation. With on average 45,000 operations a year, this would result in savings of $93 million. Hence, adopting techniques to get users more emotionally involved has enormous economic as well as social benefits.
Beauchemin and Hays 1996 _ examined 179 patients suffering from bipolar disease and depression and discovered that the amount of time they spent in hospital was closely connected to the positioning of their rooms and availability of natural light. Recovery time in rooms with bright, changing light (16.7 days) was 2.6 days less than patients cared for in rooms with light coming from the north that was notably less bright (19.5 days). Examining this research in greater depth in 2001, Benedetti discovered that the difference increased to 3.6 days’ recovery time in rooms lit-up by morning light. At a cost of approximately $11,700 per day for each hospital stay, costs would be reduced by $42,120.
In 2005 Jeffrey Walch carried out a study based on Ulrich’s pioneering work and discovered that patients in rooms exposed to direct daylight varying throughout the course of the day required 22% fewer painkillers after cholecystectomy operations.
In 2008 Blair Sadler discovered that hospital architecture containing hanging or other gardens could reduce stress and tension on patients, staff and visitors. Spatial devices capable of acting directly on pre-cognitive functions to create greater sensorial involvement are extremely effective in cases of mental fatigue and tension.
In a 1998 study Judith Heerwagen noticed that designers of shopping malls often inadvertently draw on our innate, ancestral preference for Savanna-like landscapes when arranging shopping spaces: groups of trees, semi-open spaces, shelter from sunshine, water sources, direct visual control and multiple views of corridors. Genetically speaking, in the case of space we naturally tend to look for the kind of conditions found in the African Savannah approximately 80-100,000 years ago from where we all originate. Spaces that allow us to project motor patterns similar to those found in that habitat make us feel at home.
In a study carried out by Wolf in 2005 that Broowing refers to, a group of people using shopping malls were shown photos of three different settings: a shopping arcade with plenty of green landscaping, a walkway with randomly distributed low shrubbery and, finally, a setting with no vegetation at all. The sample group was asked to assess the visual quality, quality of the sales outlet, frequency and duration of their shopping experience, and price perception. In the setting with plenty of trees (partly hiding the shop windows), the sample group said it would be willing to pay the highest prices, spend more time there and come back more often. Prices were considered compatible even if they were 20% higher for food, 25% higher for purchases in general, such as jackets and clothes, and 15% higher for gifts and personal items.
On the same wavelength, Walmart carried out an experiment on its outlets in 1993 to assess the influence of natural light on sales. They decided to alter half of the space in a shopping mall, changing the air quality and vastly increasing the amount of natural light. The newly adapted stores sold much more than the shops located in the unaltered area, as was to be expected. (Joseph Romm and William Browning 1994)
A more extensive study was carried out by between 1999-2003 on 73 shopping malls: 23 with natural lighting and 49 with mainly artificial lighting. Retail profits rose from $4.56 to $12.54 per square foot, without considering the decrease in energy costs that were reduced by a third. If this approach had been implemented in the state of California, Heschong calculated that the increase in profits would have been $47.5 million a year.
In a paper from 2002 Edwards and Torcelli make reference to another case concerning REI (Recreational Equipment Incorporated), a chain that carried out an experiment in Phoenix, where a retail space operated for six months with just natural light and six months with artificial lighting. Sales increased by 15-20% during the period with just natural light.
Studies show that the combined use of light, landscaping and natural patterns in the architectural design of schools creates greater emotional involvement and, therefore, boosts memory, attention and learning skills. For example, Nicklas and Bailey discovered in 1996 that student attendance at a school in North Carolina was on average 3.2-3.8 pupils higher per lesson in classrooms with optimum lighting from the south compared to classrooms that were not so well lit. This means public expenditure on public buildings can immediately be improved and made more cost-effective by improving the quality of built space.
Student performance is obviously another important factor. In a 2006 report on schools in the USA, Gregory Kats collected studies from 1934-1997 to prove beyond doubt that a setting with good lighting and consistently high-quality spaces increases attention and learning capacity. The study by Niklas and Bailey mentioned above also shows that scores in student performance assessment tests were up to 17% lower when in carried out in mobile classrooms with no windows compared to classrooms exposed to natural light from the south. The study specifically analysed speed of learning: in well-let classrooms with a view of an outside garden learning speed was 20-26% faster than in classrooms facing inwards with no natural light. In 1999 Lisa Heschong estimated that investment in spatial devices that introduce more light, more spatially dynamic features and an openness towards the outside could raise scores in student performance assessment tests by an average of 5-18%.
American authorities have also assessed how poor school conditions can result in children dropping out. In a report drawn up in 2004 for the secondary education authority, Camilla Lehr and others claimed that architecture can affect children’s engagement and, therefore, significantly affect whether they drop out or not. This was followed by an estimate of the negative effect on the gross national product of children dropping out of school. The figure was estimated at $9245 a year per child, which, multiplied by their entire life and the percentage of dropouts caused by poor school conditions, is an enormous amount of money.
Making a school emotionally engaging by incorporating natural-dynamic patterns, natural light and vegetation also reduces stress and has a positive impact on ADHD and ADD, i.e. attention deficit disorders, which have risen considerably over the last few years, partly due to children over-using smartphones. Wells and Evans proved in 2003 that attention deficit causes a lack of mental focus in children, as well as difficulties in performing everyday tasks.
In 2001 Frances Kuo and William Sullivan carried out a study on a complex of 145 apartment buildings interacting to different degrees with surrounding greenery. They ranged from apartments directly overlooking lawns and tall trees to apartments with absolutely no connection to greenery. The DSB (Digit Spin Backwards) test was used to assess the ability to overcome mental fatigue in order to concentrate. The tests showed that inhabitants overlooking lawns with tall trees scored better, meaning they could attain the required concentration level more quickly, making less effort and using up less nervous energy. The same study showed that certain types of domestic violence were 25% more likely in apartments with absolutely no useful interaction with outside greenery or trees. In 2001, the same team carried out a similar study on two very large residential complexes in Chicago: one surrounded by greenery and one completely lacking in parks and greenery. The report highlighted that some (approximately 7-8% of a total of 52%) of the additional violent crimes committed in the apartments with no greenery could be put down to this lack of spaces landscaped with lawns or other forms of greenery. Judith Heerwagen reached the same conclusion in 2006, claiming that social integration is helped by the presence of plenty of greenery. Colin Ellard agrees and extends this principle to the entire system of open spaces. Numerous studies and research projects carried out at his Urban Realities Lab at Waterloo University have shown that social interaction increases social cohesion and reduces aggressive behaviour and socio-economic public expenditure deriving from it (management of the judiciary-penitentiary system). The deployment of suitable urban spaces landscaped and offering plenty of urban stimuli and opportunities to interact can also have notable positive effects on children suffering from attention deficit disorders. In a 2009 study, Taylor and Kuo examined the relations between ADD/ADHD and stimulating urban environments like parks and gardens. They measured the capacity to achieve a certain concentration level in three different urban settings: as was to be expected, the data proved the concentration level could be more easily attained after a physiologically-restorative walk in the park. Treating ADHD costs $2.8 billion in the USA alone. It is estimated that repeated and constant exposure to the right kind of settings can reduce overall costs by 10%, meaning savings of $228 million a year. Another study by Taylor, Kuo and Sullivan from 2001 showed that being able to perceive or having access to green spaces from their own home can have a notable impact on adolescents’ self-discipline levels, improving them by 20%. The study measured their ability to control and even curb knee-jerk reactions, concentrate and delay gratification. Children with views of available open spaces from their homes could develop these skills almost 20% more effectively than children of the same age not living in such favourable settings.
The city of Singapore has made this paradigm the key to becoming a city in a garden rather than a garden-city. According to certain studies, this policy is responsible for its increased appeal for talented people and foreign capital that have made Singapore an extremely important hub in Asia.
University of Oregon 2011 Ihab Elzeyadi 10% reduction in absenteeism / Peter Kahn&altri 2008 Stress Test: quicker recovery with view of nature / Sacramento City Call Center – Heschong and Loftness 2003-2008 on average 6 % faster / Julian Thayer in 2010, stress hormones in extremely stagnant settings with poor lighting / Amsterdam, new headquarters of ING Bank. Absenteeism reduced by 15% / USA Bureau of Labor Statistics (2011) Mind Wandering: yearly loss per person of 938 dollars in the private sector and 1250 in the public sector.
RRoger Ulrich 1984, 1 day less recovery time, fewer night call-outs, fewer painkillers Beauchemin and Hays 1996, recovery 2.6 days quicker in rooms with bright lighting that changes / 2005 Jeffrey Walch, 22% fewer painkillers with direct light changing throughout the day / Blair Sadler 2008, hanging and ordinary gardens ease stress and tension.
Wolf 2005, plenty of trees, partly hiding shop windows, shoppers willing to pay in higher prices being paid over a longer period and more often / A dynamic, lively setting adds value to the experience, which transfer over to the hedonic value of goods and products / Wall Mart 1993 – Joseph Romm and William Browning 1994, sold much more with natural lighting / Lisa Heschong – 1999-2003, profits rose by 4.56 dollars per 12.54 sqf with more natural lighting / Edwards Torcelli 2002 – natural light against artificial light, + 15-20% sales with the former.
Nicklas and Bailey 1996, optimal lighting from south resulted in + 3.5% attendance / Nicklas and Bailey 2006, performance drops by up to 17% in classes with no windows. 20-26% faster learning rate with natural light / Lisa Heschong in 1999, 5-18% average increase in student performance ratings / 9.245 dollars per year loss of GNP for each student that drops out / Wells and Evans 2003 have shown that loss of attention = loss of mental focus.
2001 Frances Kuo William Sullivan – inhabitants overlooking tall trees and greenery: enhanced cognitive activity and 25% less domestic violence/ In 2001 Frances Kuo William Sullivan, 7-8% of violence due to lack of greenery / Judith Heerwagen 2006 – social integration facilitated by presence of landscaping and greenery / Colin Ellard, urban areas that are looked after increase social cohesion, reduce financial costs of judiciary-penitentiary system / Taylor and Kuo 2009, drop in ADD-ADHD in stimulating urban environments, parks and gardens, ADHD costs 2.8 billion dollars / Taylor, Kuo and Sullivan from 2001, test on adolescents: availability of greenery results in +20% greater self-discipline and ability to delay gratification.