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Details of Grant 

EPSRC Reference: EP/J015709/1
Title: Holistic Evidence and Design: Sensory Impacts, Practical Outcomes (HEAD)
Principal Investigator: Barrett, Professor P
Other Investigators:
Kobbacy, Professor K
Researcher Co-Investigators:
Project Partners:
Blackpool Borough Council Nightingale Associates
Department: Sch of the Built Environment
Organisation: University of Salford
Scheme: Standard Research
Starts: 01 May 2012 Ends: 31 January 2015 Value (£): 433,873
EPSRC Research Topic Classifications:
Building Ops & Management
EPSRC Industrial Sector Classifications:
Related Grants:
Panel History:
Panel DatePanel NameOutcome
24 Nov 2011 Process Environment & Sustainability Announced
Summary on Grant Application Form
People spend around an average of 90% of their time in buildings and the built environment sector (at least until recently) makes up 20% of GDP. The built environment is evidently a significant part of society that impacts on individuals through their direct experience, but also forms a massive element of the economy and of society's investment in its infrastructure. This research offers the potential for clients and their advisors to be able to use the engineering knowledge of a calibrated Environment-Human Performance Model to predict the impacts of various options and so to create optimal designs with greater confidence.

This is a two year project to contribute to the longstanding research question: can evidence be found for a link between a building's overall design and the performance of the occupants of that building? To explore this complex issue it makes sense to focus on building uses for which clear and objective user performance measures are available and it has been decided to take primary schools as the special case to address the above general challenge. Hence the specific proposition that this study seeks to explore is that: Demonstrable evidence can be found for the holistic impact of school building design on the learning rates of children in primary schools.

Despite a lot of design knowledge about schools, there is nothing that links the integrated features of school design directly with the impact on pupils' performance. Filling this gap should have a transformative impact as it will enable researchers and designers to contextualise and calibrate the specific elements being considered within an holistic impacts model. A hypothesis-driven, empirical study will be carried out shaped by the notion that the characteristics of the brain's functioning in synthesising sensory inputs shows the importance of three aspects of our environment, namely: naturalness, individualisation and the appropriate level of stimulation. This broad framework will be used to guide the selection of physical dimensions to measured, working within the rich context provided by the multitudinous focused studies already in existence.

The core element of this study will be an expert assessment of 150 diverse classrooms (c4500 pupils) to test, improve and validate an Environment-Human-Performance (E-H-P) model that allows the measurement, and so assessment, of built spaces and their human impacts. In this case the impacts will be measured improvements in the pupils' performance in mathematics, English and science. A sample of ten schools for a six month pilot phase has been identified to provide a diverse sample of school types and sizes. Once started the project will further identify five diverse classrooms within each school, in terms of their physical characteristics (orientation, level, size, etc). Building from the pilot study over the following nine months, the assessment of spaces will then extend to twenty more schools (100 classrooms) of diverse types and locations across UK. The data collected will support further analysis to refine and robustly evidence the E-H-P model. The theme of diversity in the spaces sampled is important to provide maximum opportunity for the impact of the physical factors to become evident.

After this main phase of measuring spaces and developing the E-H-P Model, a second six month phase of validation and refinement will be carried out through targeted, follow-up researcher observation of 50 classrooms, c1500 pupils. This phase is essential to calibrate the range of major factors identified with rich descriptions. In addition, observation of dynamic user influences, especially in relation to outliers, will strengthen the evidence base for the E-H-P model. The final phase of three months will focus on finalising the analysis and writing up the results and their initial promotion to the sector.

Key Findings
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Potential use in non-academic contexts
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Date Materialised
Sectors submitted by the Researcher
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Project URL: http://www.ri.salford.ac.uk/peterbarrett/m/?s=14
Further Information:  
Organisation Website: http://www.salford.ac.uk