How a Building System Can Optimize Occupant Brain Power

As you design for your building occupant’s age, should you as a designer get more detailed and perhaps more personalized by understanding and incorporating information about your occupant’s brain age — or brain power, strengths and weaknesses between their networked connections? (1) After all, “age” as we know it today is a relative term, a catchall within which so many occupant characteristics are lumped together. But what if we as designers could incorporate new understanding about what makes up a certain age — with all of its dimensions?

Well interestingly enough, researchers are now able to gather data relating to how “mature” a brain is within a person. So no longer might you only need to think of your occupants as being a male or female that is 25 or 60. Instead, as you integrate better personalization within your adaptive sensory building designs, you can begin to design for specific brain strengths and weaknesses that your given occupant may have.

To give you a better idea of how researchers collect such data, you can read the following description as follows:

After the data were collected, the researchers fed the brain activity information for each person to a computer, which assessed hundreds of features simultaneously and spit out a score reflecting the “brain age” of the subject. This score was based on how activity in each region of the brain correlated with the activity in all the other regions. In this way, the researchers described the properties of brain connectivity for each of the 238 subjects, and constructed a curve showing how this score goes up over the years.
— From the article: Defining Normal in the Brain (1)

A Building Design that Empowers Your Occupants

Of course, when you begin to consider an occupant’s brain age, you may begin to wonder how specific and personal you should get with regard to really honing in and then tuning your building system design to your occupants. I think the question here lies in your ability to target the heart of what your building’s functions and aesthetics are aiming to do to get their occupant to their intended goals. Hence, you must figure out their purpose — and perhaps work backwards from this core design problem — using what you know about your occupant’s brain age (thus, where their brain power resides) to carve out a more tailored path where their built environment can help them when and where they need it most.

So for instance, if you are designing a school, you may need to consider what specific milestones exist for the brain maturity of your occupants/children for any given classroom. Then, in knowing what standard versus atypical brain strengths and weaknesses exist for those particular age groups, you are better equipped to design classrooms that really hone in to target not only the way those learning children perceive, but also increase their opportunities and potential for optimal learning.

As an architectural designer, you will benefit from gaining knowledge about the inner workings of your occupants in relation to your specific building types (and their purposes). One way of doing this is to know what level within their development process your occupants are in and how best to tap into their inner resources to further propel them toward their own goals.

The trick is to not bombard yourself with an overflow of design information, but to know how to use such information to not only better your designs, but to better engage and empower those occupants which they serve.


(1) Sanders, Laura. Defining Normal in the Brain. Science News. Sept. 2010.

Image Caption: School children's game teaches links between math and music.

Image Credit: © Jan Tik | Flicker


Explore the research-based art practice of Maria Lorena Lehman


Inspires vision. Innovates design. Beautifies the world.

Simply click on the button below.



Enter your email below to unlock exclusive content.

This 31 minute masterclass will forever change
how you think about environments.