A new way of 'gauging' the well-being of building occupants
Mark Allen's PhD research is exploring the idea of using video data to gauge occupant well-being in buildings. The aim is to use this information to enable building management systems to control indoor environments in ways that can help to maximises occupant well-being, productivity and creativity.
Report from – Mark Allen
New developments in programs incorporating artificial intelligence could enable the well-being of building occupants to be actively monitored using the cameras in their own laptops. This could allow for the building to be controlled (even designed) in ways that help to maximise well-being.
Well-being is a hot topic right now as companies look at ways to improve their staff productivity and creativity in ever increasingly competitive markets. This project takes advantage of recent improvements in emotion recognition softwares. It complements them with other softwares, such as speech and posture detection, to see how they could be used to gauge elements of the well-being of building occupants. These softwares are quite prevalent now and with the incorporation of artificial intelligence and machine learning, some can even recognise emotions better than humans (Bartlett et al., 2014). An interesting example is the use of the speech recognition software from the University of Texas, which proved that a lost play titled ‘Double Falsehood’ was indeed written by William Shakespeare (Boyd et al., 2015).
Using these softwares to gauge occupant well-being could allow the Building Management System (BMS) to proactively change environmental conditions within a building (such as temperature or CO2) to maximise occupant well-being, productivity and creativity. Additionally, it could be used to create a database of evidence for ‘design for well-being’, which is currently lacking.
Over 90% of our time is spent indoors, be that in buildings or vehicles (Klepeis et al., 2001). This makes these environments vital to our health and well-being, especially as this large amount of ‘indoor time’ goes against our natural instincts to be outdoors (Ulrich et al., 1991). Ott (1988) even suggested that we are now an indoor species. These indoor environments however, are not always very good for our health. Sick building syndrome is a phenomena in which people report non-specific complaints (such as headaches and fatigue).
These complaints have become increasingly common as older, naturally ventilated buildings have been replaced or upgraded with mechanic ventilation (Redlich et al., 1997). This aligns somewhat with the large body of evidence relating to the health benefits and restorative effects of being outside in nature itself (White et al., 2013) and how, from a psycho-evolutionary perspective, we were born to be outside (Ulrich et al., 1991).
The key objectives of this research project are as follows:
- Review and understand well-being from a ‘psychology’ perspective and how this relates to buildings.
- Review existing well-being capture methods and the current state of the art.
- Develop methods to capture elements of occupant well-being from video data.
- Apply this to several offices to test using a mixed-methods approach.
- Consider future applications.
So far, points 1, 2 and 3 have been completed and we are currently moving towards objective 4. This involves several offices throughout the UK and many willing volunteers. Each of which will be given a camera and a monthly questionnaire to gauge their level of well-being. Taking this two-pronged approach should allow for the two methods (camera and survey) to be aligned, ultimately allowing the camera to predict well-being from its own results.
If it works, this technology would be a step change in the quality of data available to building managers and designers on the well-being of building occupants, when combined with existing environmental monitoring. With the rise of smarter buildings, this information will become more valuable as it can be incorporated into the control strategy of the adaptive elements of the building. The end result will happier, healthier and more creative building occupants
To keep track or for more information check out:
- LinkedIn - https://www.linkedin.com/in/mark-allen-30988a85/
- Research Groups - https://www.gft.eng.cam.ac.uk/ https://www.cdt-civil.eng.cam.ac.uk/
- Email – firstname.lastname@example.org
Bartlett, M. S., G. C. Littlewort, M. G. Frank and K. Lee (2014). ‘Automatic decoding of facial movements reveals deceptive pain expressions’. In: Current Biology 24.7, pp. 738–743 (cit. on pp. 3, 16, 17).
Boyd, R. L. and J. W. Pennebaker (2015). ‘Did Shakespeare write Double Falsehood? Identifying individuals by creating psychological signatures with text analysis.’ In: Psychological Science 26.5, pp. 570–582 (cit. on
Klepeis, N. E., W. C. Nelson, W. R. Ott, J. P. Robinson, A. M. Tsang, P. Switzer, J. V. Behar, S. C. Hern and W. H. Engelmann (2001). ‘The National Human Activity Pattern Survey (NHAPS): a resource for assessing exposure to environmental pollutants.’ In: Journal of exposure analysis and environmental epidemiology 11.3, pp. 231–252 (cit. on p. 3).
Ulrich, R. S., R. F. Simons, B. D. Losito, E. Fiorito, M. A. Miles and M. Zelson (1991). ‘Stress recovery during exposure to natural and urban environments’. In: Journal of Environmental Psychology 11.3, pp. 201–230 (cit. on pp. 3, 14).
Ott, W. R. (1988). ‘Human activity patterns: a review of the literature for estimating time spent indoors, outdoors, and in transit’. In: S Environmental Protection Agency. (Cit. on p. 3).
Redlich, C. A., J. Sparer andM. R. Cullen (1997). ‘Sick-building syndrome’. In: The Lancet 349.9057, pp. 1013–1016 (cit. on p. 3).
White, M. P., S. Pahl, K. Ashbullby, S. Herbert andM. H. Depledge (2013). ‘Feelings of restoration from recent nature visits’. In: Journal of Environmental Psychology 35, pp. 40–51 (cit. on p. 3).
Mark began his PhD in October 2016 under the supervision of Dr Mauro Overend as part of the Glass and Façade Research Group (GfT) and Future Infrastructure and Built Environment Centre for Doctoral Training (FIBE CDT). After graduating in Civil Engineering from Durham University in 2014, he worked as a route engineer for the High Speed Two railway project. In 2015, he joined the FIBE CDT at Cambridge, completing his Masters in Research in August 2016 (also under the supervision of Dr Overend) titled 'Buildings Inspired by Nature'.