Designing Healthy Homes

Lead Research Organisation: University of Reading
Department Name: Built Enviroment

Abstract

The 'Designing Healthy Homes' project is an investigation of the interaction between the design of the home and everyday practices of health and wellbeing.

The home is conceptualised as both a technical envelope containing and protecting the occupants, and the socio-cultural creation of a special place. Theoretically, this rejects the dichotomy of house:home as a division between technical professionals and the experiences of everyday use. The project brings together both sides of this divide by facilitating a discussion around the design of a series of homes by the participants, based on experience rather than technical conventions.

Participants will be carefully selected for their membership of one of three groups, each faced with the need to reconsider the relationship between their home and their daily wellbeing as a result of a recent or imminent transitional phase in their lives. Three or four participants from each of the three groups will be recruited through well connected non-academic partners, including a housing association and a team of occupational therapists. The first group will be households with a new-born baby; the second, individuals who have experienced debilitating illness or injury; and third, elderly people who are considering moving. These participants will each have particular ambitions and concerns for their domestic environment, brought into sharp perspective as a result of the need to reflect on a transitional life stage. Where possible, each participant household will be followed through their transition, by using innovative research methods that avoid the need for the researcher to be personally present in their home for long periods of time.

A 'cultural probe' will be designed and left with each household as the means for them to record their thoughts and activities. This package of objects is intended to appeal to the curious and playful side of human nature, as a way of maintaining engagement with the research project. It will include for example, a digital camera, a house plan, a diary, a scrapbook and a series of thought-provoking activities for the participants to complete. This will then form the basis for a series of conversations where the householders will be able to query and clarify some of the deliberately ambiguous requests.

While lengthy and intensive visits to a person's home are likely to be intrusive and unlikely to provide an accurate record of usual patterns of activity, regular shorter visits around targeted events are more easily accommodated. A series of agreed home visits over a period of a year or more will therefore be carried out at events such as mealtimes, family visits, morning routines etc. Along with the information from the cultural probe, this will provide the rich and detailed set of data characteristic of good social science research.

As a key part of their engagement with this research, participants will be asked to reflect on their concept of a healthy home and produce a design through sketches, the scrapbook, and discussion. Each design will then be modelled for use in the University of Reading's CAVE - a 3D full-scale interactive virtual reality environment. The designers will be able to move around the home, and make adjustments to finishes, the position of furniture, lighting effects and so on. This will be combined with the less technical designs, including photographs, scrapbooks and diary entries as a holistic representation of a healthy home. Their designs will be presented to visiting industry professionals and healthcare practitioners, and will form the basis for discussions between the experienced participants and the technical experts.

In this way, the project will facilitate user-engagement and conversations between lay people and nominal experts in a forum which privileges neither, in the hope that new insights into the relationship between the design of the home and practices of health and wellbeing can be better understood.

Planned Impact

The 'Designing Healthy Homes' Project will provide new insights into the relationship between the design of homes and domestic practices of health and wellbeing. This includes a detailed ethnography of daily routines, compiled jointly by the participants and the researcher, and the design of imagined houses, which will be created as full scale 3D virtual models. The participants will belong to one of three target groups, each of which is facing transitional life-events that cause them to reflect on relationships of health and wellbeing between their home and their everyday activities. These three groups are: households with a newborn baby; individuals with a recent and debilitating illness or injury; post-retirement households who are considering the need to move.

The general themes of the research will be of interest to a number of academic audiences, including:
Design Studies and Design Anthropology - this project will develop thinking on participatory design through the use of the Virtual Environment as an intermediary and facilitating tool. It will also document the process of design and set it into a wider context through the use of ethnographic data describing the participants' everyday routines and use of space.
Visual Anthropology - the recent development of 3D systems in the cinema, for the home and for industrial uses has progressed faster than scholarly investigations into the socio-cultural uses ad effects of these systems. This project will act as a stimulus to push this emerging field forward.
Cultural Anthropology - the meaning of home is a thoroughly debated topic, but with current policies trying to incorporate the home into the healthcare system, this opens up new questions about reconfiguring domestic spaces, both materially and emotionally.

Beyond these academic audiences, the process and results of this research will benefit a number of interested parties in industry, healthcare, and the general public. This includes:
Construction and Planning - Policy makers in housing, as well as the industry that designs and builds them, have not had the opportunity to discover in this much detail how users see their homes as locations for practices of wellbeing. The use of the Virtual environment models, designed by non-technical but experienced lay-people, offers an unprecedented opportunity for knowledge exchange and user-engagement. The results of these discussions will provide new insights into the occupants' priorities for healthy homes, and suggest ways that architects, construction professionals and planners can achieve them.
Healthcare - High on the political agenda is the government's aim to reduce costs in healthcare by considering radical new ways of delivery. Issues such as healthcare at home, and ageing in place are directly relevant to this research. The data gathered will provide the basis for a refreshing new look at how the home can be effectively incorporated into the wider healthcare system, without undue emphasis on technologies such as telecare. If ultimately successful, the potential implications are socially and economically enormous. The close involvement in this project of a team of occupational therapists, whose job it is to assess the needs of elderly or ill people in their own home, will help keep the research grounded in practical realities.
The General Public - the three participant groups selected for this project represent the first attempt to investigate and analyse the links between the design of the home and everyday practices of health and wellbeing, from the perspective of the householder. Within those groups awareness will be raised through the dissemination of informal reports through charity websites and a housing association newsletter for example, and at the level of policy makers who will be given key findings through the project partners that will suggest how to improve the chances of healthy behaviours through homes designed with the benefit of experience.
 
Description Two non-academic demonstration days (topic: 3D virtual reality buildings) were carried out: one at a local school, involving pupils and teachers, and another with local museum staff and volunteers. The school included the contents of the day in their curriculum, and the museum used the model to inform their development plans.
First Year Of Impact 2015
Sector Construction,Education,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections
Impact Types Societal

 
Description AHRC Collaborative Doctoral Partnership
Amount £68,648 (GBP)
Funding ID AH/P003982/1 
Organisation Arts & Humanities Research Council (AHRC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 10/2016 
End 04/2020
 
Description AHRC Research Grant Development Grant
Amount £63,791 (GBP)
Funding ID AH/N00714X/1 
Organisation Arts & Humanities Research Council (AHRC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 03/2016 
End 05/2017
 
Description CCN+ Pilot Project
Amount £23,482 (GBP)
Organisation Communities and Culture Network+ 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 01/2015 
End 01/2016
 
Description CCN+visit to DERC, Melbourne 
Organisation Communities and Culture Network+
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Attended a research visit to the Digital Ethnography Research Centre at RMIT in Melbourne, Australia. Involved a series of presentations and discussions about the 'Designing Healthy Homes' project, and other projects involving similar methods.
Collaborator Contribution Visit also attended by three others from the UK, and several RMIT researchers, including Professor Sarah Pink, Dr. Yoko Akama, and Dr. Heather Horst. As well as discussion on particular projects, an agreement was made to convene a joint panel at a forthcoming conference related to digital ethnography.
Impact Panel convened at the 'Understanding Digital Global Cultures' conference at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, April 2015.
Start Year 2013
 
Description DERC research visit 
Organisation RMIT University
Department Digital Ethnography Research Centre (DERC)
Country Australia 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Expertise in use of Virtual Reality and 3D models Demonstrations of VR environments to DERC students
Collaborator Contribution Expertise in digital methodologies. Access to facilities including office, and space for VR.
Impact Group teaching and demonstrations
Start Year 2016
 
Description Historic England H-BIM PhD 
Organisation Historic England
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution Experience in using digital technologies as tools for social investigation. Academic project management
Collaborator Contribution Expertise in digital imaging techniques. Access to heritage building sites. 3 month placement for a PhD student. Co-supervision of PhD student.
Impact Collaborative Doctoral Partnership PhD 'Heritage BIM' 2016-2020
Start Year 2015
 
Description BBC Radio Berkshire interview 
Form Of Engagement Activity A broadcast e.g. TV/radio/film/podcast (other than news/press)
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Interview with local radio, discussing multi-sensory VR experience being exhibited at Fishbourne Roman Palace
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description BBC Radio Sussex interviews 
Form Of Engagement Activity A broadcast e.g. TV/radio/film/podcast (other than news/press)
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Local Radio interview discussing multi-sensory VR experience being exhibited at Fishbourne Roman Palace
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description BBC South Today TV Feature 
Form Of Engagement Activity A broadcast e.g. TV/radio/film/podcast (other than news/press)
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact 90 second feature describing the work using VR as a tool to describe spaces to the general public.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description Designing Healthy Homes seminar 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact 50 people attended a seminar with 5 invited industry speakers to discuss the implications of the initial findings of the project to the provision of housing in the UK. The interactions between speakers and audience were at times heated and in the informal discussions during breaks it was reported that greater interaction would take place between the industry practitioners and the academics in the audience.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Museum presentation 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact 40 members of staff and volunteers at the Museum of English Rural Life attended a presentation and demonstration of a Virtual Reality model of their new building. There were discussions about other uses for the model, including disabled group visits, which will be considered in the near future at MERL.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
 
Description School visit (Reading) 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact The researchers brought a virtual reality demonstration model to a local school with members of the Museum of English Rural Life. We brought along several objects that were also in the VR model. The visit was reported on the school website. Students and staff members engaged in a discussion about virtual reality, and plans were made to develop links between the school and the university, through school visits to the university VR capabilities.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
URL http://theabbey.co.uk/news/senior-school/upper-iii-explore-virtual-merl
 
Description VR public demonstration at Fishbourne 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact One week demonstration of VR at Fishbourne Roman Palace during their half-term week.
Average attandance increased as a result of the publicity for the event, expected 1000 attendees, achieved 1400
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description networking seminar (social science at Reading) 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Other academic audiences (collaborators, peers etc.)
Results and Impact Day-long seminar brought together 60 academics from disparate disciplines, and a forum for networking.

Several discussions about possible collaborations. Currently one funding application has been submitted (£30k), and a new cross-disciplinary group is being set up (between Construction Management, and Archaeology)
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014