Report hopes to tackle “muddled” government thinking on design of built environments

The Design Commission’s People and Places report makes recommendations to Government on how the public and private sectors can work more closely together and influence people’s behaviour in the way they design spaces.

The Design Commission has released a report which looks at how the design of built environments such as offices and transport infrastructure influences the way people think and behave.

The commission makes up the in-depth research arm of the All-Party Parliamentary Design and Innovation Group, which aims to drive thinking around design policy in the UK. It is comprised of parliamentarians and representatives from businesses and the public sector.

The new report – People and Places: Design of the Build Environment and Behaviour – comes after a year-long inquiry carried out by architecture and design experts and chaired by Baroness Whitaker and Professor Alan Penn, dean of The Bartlett at University College London (UCL).

Wellbeing and efficiency

During the research phase, the Design Commission looked at issues including how people’s behaviour, wellbeing and health are affected by their surroundings; the role that design can play in making infrastructure more accessible in order to increase the use of public transport and improve walking and cycling facilities; and how the design of work environments can improve efficiency in the context of the UK’s current “productivity crisis”.

The report’s findings claim that policy making for built environments at central government level has traditionally been “muddled” and “fragmented”, arguing that local authorities and city mayors ought to be given more responsibility over housing, healthcare and transport infrastructure.

It suggests that by local authorities being able to focus on local needs, this will result in “better productivity, social cohesion and improved health and environmental outcomes” across the UK.

The report also highlights the role that spatial experts and private companies can play in this area, particularly when it comes to the design of offices and other workspaces. One of its recommendations is that employees ought to have autonomy over their working environments, and the design of offices should focus on providing sufficient access to daylight, control of temperature and fresh air.

“Creativity in the workplace”

Co-chair of the report Professor Penn, says: “The inquiry heard evidence that design acts at two levels. It can affect individual choices of behaviour – do we take the stairs or use the lift, walk to public transport or drive – and so can affect health and sustainability. Or design can affect the way that people are brought together or kept apart, and so affect communication and creativity in the workplace, or social cohesion in communities.”

“These are important to society and the economy, and place the design of the built environment as a critical dimension for policy in post-Brexit Britain,” he adds.

People and Places: Design of the Build Environment and Behaviour was sponsored by the Building Research Establishment (BRE) Trust, a charity dedicated to research and education in the build environment.

Read the full report by the Design Commission here.

Latest articles