Are the buildings you live and work in making you feel stressed?


(bright tones) – The first talk will
be by Sarah Billington. And she is leading a
program that’s looking at the spaces that we occupy
a large portion of our lives, which are the buildings in which we work, and how we might be able to think about those buildings
differently and be able to change them to improve not only the environmental sustainability,
but our own well-being. And without further ado,
let me introduce Sarah. (applause) – I am presenting on behalf
of, or in place also, of my co-PI James Landay
from Computer Science, who was not able to be here today. The motivation for our project
is that many Americans are: overstressed… Overweight… Wasteful… Unhappy, and feeling isolated,
either at work or at school. And as Americans we spend much of our time with these inflictions
inside our built environment. 87% of our time actually,
according to the EPA, is spent in homes and offices. So, imagine the worst room
you’ve ever spent time in. How did it make you feel? So, you’re imagining the worst room you’ve ever been in, how it made you feel. Okay, so for me, it was
a couple of years ago and I spent time in the
facility pub here on campus. It’s since been renovated. It was miserable, it
was cinder block walls, no windows, sort of a lot of
gray and beige, very dingy. It was really oppressive. And in fact, it inspired me
to change research directions. It was that bad. (laughs) But maybe you haven’t had that experience, so let’s imagine Kate in her office here. It’s noisy, there’s a
lot of artificial light, artificial materials, not
a lot of access to nature. It’s hard to get work
done here and feel good. And what Kate is feeling,
what these building features are causing, is it causes her to feel some stress, anxiety, and distraction. And this impacts her performance, and also her ability to
collaborate with others. In turn, this is gonna
affect the organization, in terms of its finances, how people are wasting resources,
and also it can affect the cultural norms of that organization. And then it doesn’t stop there. It can go on, when organizations
are affected this way, it really affects our
society, our economy, our environment, and our
health and well-being. And it may be hard to imagine
that just building features can have this big of an affect, so let me just give you
one concrete example. Take absenteeism, it’s
a big problem in the US. It costs US companies
about $226 billion a year. Most of this is, granted,
likely due to low pay, lousy boss, long hours,
those kinds of things, but one study showed
that a lack of nature, like in Kate’s office,
actually contributed to about 10% of the
absenteeism in that company. So if this were true in general,
that would be $26 billion, or $23 billion, in the US economy. And even if it were a couple percent, it would still be several billion dollars. So, the motivation for
our project has been, and the framework for
our project has been, that these building features matter, and they impact not only individuals, but organizations and society as a whole. So what can we do? Well, we really like this
quote from Winston Churchill. And in particular, the emphasis
that buildings shape us. And so our idea is, what if
we could make our buildings shape us in a positive way
and keep improving over time? So, as you know, we have
awesome undergraduates here at Stanford, and graduate students, but we had some undergrads
a couple years ago working with us and they helped
create this brief video, sort of imagining the future of buildings, and I want to show that right now. (rising piano music) So, imagine a workplace in the future where they can have
large, ambient displays that inspire workers to get more exercise, for example, by taking the
stairs instead of the elevator, and thereby saving some
on building energy. Or imagine personalized
temperature control, where some people don’t
have to always feel too cold and others, not too hot. Or where we could actively cancel noise, so that we could work in
open office floor plans that wouldn’t be so distracting. Or where the building might be able to infer the stress of a worker and adapt. For example, changing to allow
for more natural scenery, perhaps lowering the lights, playing some nicer music in a non-creepy way … (audience laughs) And thereby helping reduce stress. Or imagine we could build digital art into the windows to
help people meet others in the company they haven’t met before. Or even to guide them
outside to take a break. So, how would we get to this future? How would we have building
that are like this? Well, there are some studies
and we do know some things. For example, that greenery,
like living walls, can improve mood, lower blood pressure, and increase mental engagement. We also know that daylighting,
or natural lighting, leads to better concentration
and increased productivity. And there is also indication
that social engagement can reduce stress, but there’s
very little information on how a building might impact something like belonging or social engagement. In fact, there’s very little information behind the sort of “well
building” movement in general. Most of the studies are short-term, they’re small-scale,
on limited populations, and they pretty heavily rely
on surveys, like self report. And so, we really need to
fill in the missing pieces of this puzzle and take a
much more scientific approach, an integrated approach, to figuring out what building features are
impacting our well-being. And that’s where our project is focused. We’re taking these three keys steps to try to design buildings, or create buildings, that can support well-being. The first is establishing the science. We started with a very small online study where we had about 300 participants, half men and half women, and we asked them to imagine that they were working in a new environment and having a new job. And across the board, so in eight out of the nine things that
we were looking at, there were statistically
significant increases in their sense of belonging,
their self-efficacy, and their environmental efficacy when they had believed they were going to be working in an environment that had natural materials,
they saw these pictures, natural light, or diverse representations. And so we’re taking these findings now, and what’s going on right now is, we’re figuring out how to do this in naturalistic settings
over the longer term, ’cause that’s what’s
missing in the science now. And so, we’re doing lab studies, controlled lab studies right now, and designing our field studies where we’re systematically varying things like views to nature,
diverse symbols, airflow and thermal variability, nature inside, access to nature and water features. And as we’re systematically
varying those features, we are monitoring what we are
referring to as well-being. These are the well-being outcomes
that we’re interested in, and they are stress,
belonging, creativity, physical activity, and
environmental behavior. And the way we’re doing this
is a big research question. And first, we are moving
beyond simple surveys and using self report
using a method called the Experience Sampling Method. And then we’re leveraging
the building data that we get from all
of the building sensors that are in all of our smart buildings, so that would be things
like occupancy sensors, or energy data, energy use, or recycling. And then, much of our
data is being leveraged from the personal
devices that we all carry with us everywhere, so our watches, our laptops, and our phones. And together, with these
three pieces of data, we can triangulate in on what, and make stronger conclusions about, which building features we’re varying are affecting which outcomes. Let me give you just one quick example. This is Kate, she’s got a new office now. And we’re looking at her stress, if we’re interested in her stress, we could use the
occupancy sensor to detect if there are other people nearby, how much interaction she’s having. We can detect from the
mobile phone the affect of her speech, this would
be non-conversation based, so privacy concern conserving. And then, we’ve been doing studies with the laptop track pad and a mouse, so we can figure out people’s stress based on how they use those two things. And then, finally, the
third piece would be that Experience Sample Method, asking periodically how she’s doing. And so, we can triangulate
in on the stress and infer her stress
from these measurements. So, there’s a lot of
sensitive, private data here. We recognize, and so that’s actually, we’re taking non-technical and
technical approaches to that. And not just saying we’re gonna
keep things private and safe and secure, but rather,
making it a research question. It’s part of our research agenda. So we are using mixed method assessment, so we’re asking what
they’re comfortable with, finding out what they’re comfortable with, figuring out how they
might want to communicate their privacy preferences to a building. All studies are opt-in. They can delete any data at
any time, any day they want. And then, security, only
those on the research team that need to see any data will see it. So we’re addressing those
user acceptance constraints. And, finally, when we understand
what building features are impacting which outcomes, you know, in naturalistic settings and
over longer periods of time, and in conjunction with
the acceptance constraints, we can begin to design
adaptations that can support that well-being and make
it last over the long-term. And we’re looking at physical
and digital adaptations here. As an example of physical, we’re looking at modular walls, maybe
modular green walls, that can be moved to different
parts of the building and then engineering them in a way that they could help expand
the range of temperatures in which we could use natural
ventilation in buildings, ’cause that’s pretty limited right now. And by using more natural ventilation, we get better indoor
air quality generally, and also other well-being
outcomes are improved. On the digital side,
we’re looking at dynamic, ambient displays that
might be large public art or on one’s digital
devices, personal devices where imagine here, for example, the petals of the flowers might represent how much energy a working group is using to nudge that environmental behavior. And so, this is a summary
basically of our project, we can give you technical
details at the poster session. And this is our team, we
represent all seven schools at Stanford, which is exciting. We have expertise in buildings, computing, and people, it’s color coded there. We have some partners
for our field studies. And we all share a very strong passion for creating a built environment that not only protects
the natural environment, but helps humans to flourish. Thank you. (applause)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *