The most important thing architects ignore when designing spaces
Architects today have access to an impressive array of tools to make sure the execution of their designs go off without a hitch. They are typically given a very specific brief by business owners and use the latest technologies, such as BIM (building information modeling), to be certain they don’t misplace a window or put electrical outlets in the wrong place.
But according to Guzmán de Yarza Blache, director of the Master in Strategic Design of Spaces at IE School of Architecture and Design, there’s one major factor a lot of architects overlook: the people who’ll actually be using the space.
Office managers might not necessarily understand the day-to-day behavior of employees. College deans could spend most of the day in their office rather than the classroom. And retail managers are likely to tell architects what they want rather than pay attention to what shoppers need.
“The biggest error designers make is not putting the user in the center,” said De Yarza. “You have to consider the people that are using the space as the client, not the person who has contracted your services.”
An average architect will consider the basic needs of the people using the space, such as how many desks there should be in an office. But a good architect will also think about the climate of the area in which the building is located, how susceptible people might be to illness and how visible they are to others.
“For example, a lot of big office buildings in cities don’t allow people to open the windows,” explained De Yarza. “But if they aren’t able to control the temperature either, they can effectively end up in a greenhouse!”
In fact, De Yarza goes as far as to say that companies will see employees walk out if they don’t take proper design considerations. A study conducted by UK market researchers Ipsos recently revealed that a third of employees aren’t happy in their office environment. An astonishing 45% said the temperature was “uncomfortable” and 32% said the lighting was poor. Meanwhile, a separate study discovered 35% of employees felt their environment was the biggest cause of work-related stress.
De Yarza, who saw a specific need to train the next generation of architects in creative solutions to these increasing problems, pointed out that the work environment is just as important for employees today as their salary or benefits package. You only have to look at the offices of companies like Google to appreciate how vital it is for businesses to spend money on good design upfront rather than paying the price further down the line.
“Office managers need to work for employees, not the other way around,” said De Yarza. “The people that work for you are your asset, You have to invest in them!”
He added, “These kind of things weren’t really considered in the past, but now they are vitally important. Today, it’s an essential part of encouraging and maintaining talent.”
Guzmán de Yarza Blache is the director of the Master in Strategic Design of Spaces at IE School of Architecture and Design and also head of Workplace Strategy & Design at JLL Spain. The course breaks down the ways in which advances in technology and society have an effect on the physical spaces in which we work, learn and shop.