A new study by global engineering and infrastructure advisory company, Aurecon explores why building design should be focussed on the people who will live and work in them.

The intense focus on technology during the building design process often tends to relegate the needs of the people who will ultimately use these built spaces. Based on their research, Aurecon believes that making humans the centre of everything being designed will be the only way for building owners, developers and users to get ahead in future.

Aurecon’s study was based on interviews with professionals across the built environment, who were asked to reveal their vision of buildings of the future and how they might be created. The feedback revealed a shared concern about the impact that buildings have on the humans who use them.

Observing that building design was not just about bits and bytes, but flesh and bones, Aurecon’s Buildings of the Future Leader, Peter Greaves said it was important to remember that humans were at the centre of everything they designed.

“Buildings of the future are about designs that unlock human potential. High tech is only high value if that same technology enhances human experience,” he added.

This lacuna in design is exposed in multiple studies on the subject. A survey by Management Today magazine said 97% of respondents regarded their place of work as a symbol of whether or not they were valued by their employer. However, only 37% thought their offices had been designed ‘with people in mind’.

Another research by the British Design Council found that salaries of occupants constituted 85 percent of a company’s annual budget, while just 6.5 percent went into construction and 8.5 percent on furnishing, maintaining and operating the facility.

According to Greaves, this study demonstrates that humans are the biggest expense, which means design focus should shift from traditional business drivers to the results of post-occupancy research that can reveal what building functions are actually used, how they are used, and if they are increasing productivity.

With research underlining the huge impact of building design on staff motivation, satisfaction and retention, Greaves says buildings of the future will need to be both intellectually and emotionally intelligent, cognisant of the environment, social equity, and the health and wellness of occupants.

Additionally, changes in the way people work and live are driving the design of buildings of the future. This includes an increasingly mobile workforce, peoples’ changing social contexts, the sharing economy, the war for talent and recognition that aligning corporate strategy with city strategy is important to reducing the impact on the environment.

Greaves noted that the needs, movements and preferences of building occupants can’t be considered only after a building has been constructed.

“Human centred design is enabled through collaborative design, rapid prototyping and optioneering. When the right stakeholders are brought in during the concept and design phase and you’re able to make ideas tangible and get quick feedback from the people that you are designing for, then the building designers and engineers can learn through producing,” Greaves said.

Read ‘Buildings of the Future: People at the Centre’ here.