A study by UBC psychology students suggests that green architecture can actually prompt those in the building to act in a more environmentally friendly way.
A study by psychology students at the University of British Columbia suggests that green architecture and design can have ongoing environmental benefits the likes of which most might not presume.
The study, led by UBC psychology department head Alan Kingstone with students David Wu and Alessandra DiGiacomo, studied the recycling habits in cafeterias at two UBC Vancouver campus buildings – the sustainably-designed Centre for Interactive Research on Sustainability (CIRS) and the outdated Student Union Building, a concrete building built in the 1960s.
Hidden cameras were used to track the tendencies of users of both buildings.
Notably, students at the CIRS cafeteria were shown to recycle their waste far more than students at the Student Union. At the former site, some 86 per cent of students were recorded properly disposing of recyclables compared to only 58 per cent at the latter.
Both buildings offered similar opportunities for recycling and waste disposal.
The findings, according to the study, would appear to suggest that “by being in a sustainable context, acting on objects designed for sustainability, and being primed with messages of sustainable induces pro-environmental behavior in CIRS.”
The researchers surveyed users of both buildings to ensure those in the CIRS building were not more predisposed to recycling due to other factors. Following the survey, they concluded that the CIRS building’s design itself promoted more environmentally-friendly behaviour.
The researchers credited the results to the cognition effect, which suggests that the environment affects how people feel and act.
The CIRS building, designed by Perkins+Wills, was designed with sustainability in mind, with zero waste and zero carbon targets, water self-sufficiency and net-positive energy performance.
Should the study’s findings prove accurate, it could lead to new standards in building design, where architects and designers are tasked not only with including green features but also with designing in such a way that it provides incentives for building users to act in an environmentally-friendly way as well.
” With urbanization rapidly increasingly globally, the design of new sustainable infrastructure can be a remarkable tool for creating new sustainable norms that may be essential to elicit sustainable behaviors. We believe that intentionality and mindfulness in the design process of sustainable spaces will bring about intentionality and mindfulness in the thoughts and actions of people using the space,” the study reads.
Published on 28 March 2013