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Introduction I was interested in evaluating the Commons by way of focusing on the independent seating areas within the whole space and how they related to the user and their activities. I observed occupation of and behaviors within these spaces on Tuesday, October 23 from 12 - 1pm, Wednesday, October 24 from 4:30 - 5:30pm and Sunday, October 28 from 6 - 6:30pm. This document begins with the statement of purpose, followed by an introduction to the spaces observed and observation vocabulary, the individual observation reports and overall summary /analysis, concluding with a description of my design concepts and recommendations. The appendix includes a comprehensive representation of my observational data.

Statement of Purpose: The Commons aims to serve a variety of student needs associated with independent and group work as well as social gathering while also providing The College of Human Ecology and Cornell University with a adaptable presentation and gathering space. living room link I was unable to observe any event gathering within the space so will focus my report on the former portion of the statement of purpose related to student needs.

The Commons

Individual Window Couches Pair Window Individual Central Triple Low Table Bench Long Table Circular Tables Double Sided Bar Single Sided Bar

See bellow for area descriptions


Observation Terms and Identified Space Descriptions Terms: Eating: Actively engaged in consuming food. Occupants with food related waste were not placed into this category as they were not engaging in the behavior at the time of the observation Laptop: Those who had laptops open in front of them. Described within the summaries as active (typing and active interaction with the device), moderate (intermittent use, internet browsing, reading), and inactive (the device is open but not being used). Working: Performing what appears to be academic tasks, including reading, drafting, writing in notebooks, etc.

Couches

Three groups comprised of two chairs and a low table each, this area is window adjacent surrounding the external courtyard door. Chairs are facing inward, parallel to the main seating area.

Pair Windows

Other: Other tasks were included as they were encountered during observation. Included chatting, napping, watching the video wall, or simply sitting.

Offering between 20 - 30 seats total, the couches offer seating oriented towards the main seating area, the external doors and the video wall. Ottomans and tables are present throughout the couch area.

Individual Window

Two seats that offer seclusion to the occupant by orienting the chair away from the main seating space. A foot rest, side table and lamp is also present at each area.

Individual Central

Three seats which are centrally located and adjacent to the couches. One of the arm chairs has a medium height table while the green padded chair has a low table. Both the armchairs and the green padded chair have a lamp.


Circular Tables

Three low tables surrounded by three chairs. Located between the couch area and the long and circular tables. While the configuration of the chairs encourages interaction, the decline of the chair allows one to remain separate.

Double Sided Bar

A bench running along the wall with five tables and five chairs. The benches face the main seating area. Allows pairs to interact, but single occupants can face the wall for seclusion.

Bench

High table with nine seats facing the windows and away from the main seating area. Allows for privacy due to the linear design.

Single Sided Bar

The long table nearest the couch has 12 seats while the one nearest Martha始s is shorter and has 8. Seats face inward towards the table encouraging pair and small group interaction.

Long Tables

Triple Low Tables

Six tables, each with four chairs. Located between the long tables. Highly encourages social interaction.

High table with 12 seats, half facing the wall and half facing the circular tables. Appropriate for individuals or pair interactions.


Observations Observation 1: Occupancy and Task Observations Tuesday, October 23 12 - 1pm I felt that it would be appropriate to view the space at it始s busiest, during the lunch hour. I used this opportunity to determine the quantity and distribution of the seats within the space, as well as the occupancy and general tasks of users. I collected quantitive count and task data at 12:00pm then used the remaining hour to record observations for each of the seating areas at 5 minute intervals. There was one non-student adult sitting within the space during this observation at which time seating capacity was at 71%. In addition to sitting, there was a large number of students and faculty (presumed) moving through the space over the period. Many students were observed eating then remaining in the space to perform other tasks. Individual Window: Occupied by the same two individual through the course of the observation. One student appeared to be performing work and social tasks on their laptop while the other napped. Student on the laptop had rotated the chair to chair so that they were more exposed to the main seating area. Couches: Minimal occupation changes while observing. One non-student (older gentleman) sat watching the video wall, no other occupants seemed focused on the wall during observation. Students were engaged in a variety of tasks with a significant portion interacting in pairs (approximately 1/3 of total occupants). Nonpaired students were roughly evenly spaced, with no more than one student to a cushion, except in the case of pairs. Pair Window: Each pair of chairs was only occupied by an individual who spent the observation period on their laptops. There was no changes in occupancy during observation. Individual Central: Full occupancy did not change during observation. All three individuals seemed deeply engaged in their tasks, and the two users of laptops seemed to be participating in study related work. Triple Low Table: Two of the tree tables had single occupancy while the third was occupied by two students who did not interact during the course of the observation. One of the tables had been moved adjacent to the couches, providing potential, though currently unused, seating around the table. Bench: Of the five tables, four had single occupancy while the fifth had a interacting pair. Three of the remaining singles sat on the bench side of the tables, while one sat with their back to the main seating area. Gave the impression of greater causality. Long Tables: There was a significant amount of movement to and from this seating area with the majority of students eating, talking or on their laptops. There were no students working with other materials within this area. Instead, this space had the second highest interaction percent with 66% of students engaged with other occupants. A cheap power strip had been added to the exposed outlets under the long table nearest to the couches. Circular Tables: Each table was occupied by an individual group, leading to the highest interaction percentage at 100%. Groups were engaged in a variety of tasks as well as participating in conversation. No change in occupation during observation. Overall, volume levels seemed highest surrounding the circular and long tables. Double Sided Bar: Of seven individuals two were interacting in a pair, the rest were concentrated on eating and working. One person left and a new person sat during observation. Single Sided Bar: No interactions but multiple changes in occupancy during observation with two students leaving and one filling a previously occupied seat. All occupants sat with at least two stools separating themselves and others.


Observation 2: Occupancy and Task Observations Wednesday, October 24 4:30 - 5:30pm I do not usually visit the Commons during this time and was interested in exploring its occupancy and use. I collected quantitive count and task data at 4:30pm then used the remaining hour to record observations for each of the seating areas at 5 minute intervals. There were no non-students within the space during this observation at which time seating capacity was at 26%. In comparison to the previous day, there was a limited number of students and faculty (presumed) moving through the space over the period. The volume levels were notably lower than the lunch hours and there were no students eating during this observation. Individual Window: Only one of the two seats were occupied, with the student using their computer during the course of the observation. Chair which had been rotated during previous observation had been returned to its initial position. Couches: All four occupants were engaged with their laptops during the observation and seemed to be participating in more passive behaviors (minimal typing, hand movements in general) suggesting that they were likely reading or browsing the internet or other documents. One occupant left the space during observation, one person traveling through the space stopped to interact with an occupant. Pair Window: Only one of the six chairs was occupied. The student was reclined and seemed to be interacting with their laptop in the same manner as couched students. There was no movement during observation. Individual Central: All three chairs were occupied for the duration of the observation, with the pair sitting in the two armchairs collaborating while on laptops, periodically typing and more active computer behaviors. The third occupant was behaving similarly to the Pair Window occupant. Triple Low Table: Zero occupation, no change during observation. Bench: Three of the ten seats were occupied, two of the three on the bench side facing the main space. The bench siders were actively using their laptops while the individual sitting in the chair with his back to the space was working on other homework. No movement during observation. Long Tables: Of the eight occupants, six were interacting with other individuals. All were engaged in laptop use, though the single occupants seemed to be engaged with their laptops more passively than the groups. During the observation the group of four left the space. One member then occupied the open Individual Window seat. Two people traveling through the space stopped to speak with different occupants. Circular Tables: Five of the six tables were occupied, two by pairs and three by individuals. All seemed to be engaged in academic tasks, whether on the computer or working with other materials. No movement during observation. Double Sided Bar: Only one occupant with their back to the main space who was causally engaged in laptop use. No movement during observation. Single Sided Bar: Three of nine seats occupied evenly spaced down the length of the high table. One seemed to be actively using their laptop, one casually, while the other worked with other materials. Observation 3: Occupancy and Task Observations Sunday, October 28 6:00 - 6:30pm Due to the low occupancy, I observed this space for 30 minutes instead of the previous 60. I collected quantitive count and task data at 6:00pm then used the remaining half hour to record observations for each of the four occupied seating areas at 5 minute intervals. There were no non-students within the space


during this observation at which time seating capacity was at 6%. In comparison to the previous days, there was nearly no movement through the space over the period. The space was nearly silent and there were no students eating or partaking in notable non-working ʻotherʼ activities. Individual Window: Single occupant, no movement during observation. Unable to determine focus of laptop use. Couches: Two pairs of individual each composed of one male and one female student. Proximity suggested that they were socially close. Each pair had one laptop open and one partner performing other work, suggesting collaborative work. Frequent casual conversation did not suggest that work was rushed. Pair Window: Single occupancy, no change during observation with moderate computer use. Individual Central: Zero occupation, no change during observation. Triple Low Table: Zero occupation, no change during observation. Bench: Single occupancy, no change during observation with moderate computer use. Long Tables: Zero occupation, no change during observation. Circular Tables: Zero occupation, no change during observation. Double Sided Bar: Zero occupation, no change during observation. Single Sided Bar: Zero occupation, no change during observation.

Observation Summary and Analysis It is clear that The Commons primarily services student users, as there was only one instance of a nonstudent sitting in the space, though there were many examples of faculty moving through the space. The Commons is at itʼs most active during the lunch hours, displaying the highest percent occupancy (71%) and the greatest diversity in activities. This is the only time that occupants were observes eating, or engaging in ʻotherʼ activities (conversation, napping, etc). There were a considerable number of random interactions as the high traffic of those moving through the space (both students and faculty) paused to interact with seated others. During the weekday evening observation, the occupancy dropped to 26%. Occupant activities included general working and laptop use. The decreased occupancy, the lack of individuals participating in casual conversation, and reduced foot traffic all contributed to the significantly lowered volume levels. The weekend evening observation displayed a continuation of the trend towards lowered occupancy (6%). However, the percent of individuals interacting was at its highest at 57%. There was no traffic through the space during this time. During observation, there was only one non-student witnessed using the space for anything other than a thoroughfare. While The Commons appears to serve seating demand during lunch hours, during other observations there was a significant surplus during non peak hours. In connection with this trend, collaboration increases with a decrease in occupancy, suggesting that lunch time congestion (perceived invasion of personal spaces) and/ or noise could be an obstruction to successful work-oriented group interaction. For those seeking a more casual climate, the lunch hours show high levels of random interactions and activities, suggesting that The Commons has the ability to serve multiple purposed depending on the occupation period: An active thoroughfare and social gathering place surrounding the lunch hours, and a collaborative workspace during non peak hours. Related to the specific seating areas, the data shows that areas with clearly understood social implications had the highest occupancy. The Individual Central and Window seating with the highest, 66% and 56% respectively, displaying an overall preference for defined individual seating and potentially task lighting as these are the areas with adjacent lamps. Established group seating had the second highest with the


Circular and Long Tables at 40% and 38% overall occupancy. The Double Sided Bar and the Triple Low Tables presented the lowest overall occupancy at 22% and 15% potentially due to the the proximal but not direct adjacency to other seats (Triple Low Tables) or the forced proximity to others (Double Sided Bar). Another consideration is the work surfaces provided. In the case of the Triple Low Tables, a low table, more functional as a foot rest and not ergonomically appropriate for laptop or writing use is the only surface provided. For the Double Sided Bar, there is minimal space available to perform any action due to the high seating to table surface ratio.

Design Criteria Positive Design Concepts: Varying Levels of Privacy: Whether occupants seek to work, relax or nap in seclusion or interact with others, there is seating which addresses preferences along the full scale. Occupants are able to face into or away from the main space, at tables which do or don始t directly face other individuals. This visual privacy provides for user comfort and makes the space applicable to a variety of user preferences. Facilitation of Varied Tasks: The space allows users to find seating which is appropriate for different tasks; eating, laptop use, working with other materials, and others were highlighted during observations. Partially related to varying levels of privacy, open areas with higher density seating are provided for conversation and collaboration, while individuals are able to find refuge to complete individual tasks. Access to Natural Light: The area devoted to window space provides occupants with a notable quantity to natural light, especially in comparison to traditional study spaces on campus. Natural light is generally associated with increased mood and productivity, as well as reduced lighting costs. Promotes Spontaneous Communication : Due to the openness and high traffic of the space, occupants are able to easily able to identify familiar others (unless seated in a high privacy area). This promotes a feeling of connectedness while allowing individuals to inform familiar others of their tasks and share ideas that may not have been discussed otherwise. Serves as a Hub and College Landmark: Within a building that is notoriously difficult to navigate, The Commons connects Martha始s Cafe, the G level auditoriums and their associated basement entrance, and the new Human Ecology Building. The space provides a definitive meeting and wayfinding point as it is easy to locate and identify while offering accessibility to the greater college. Unfavorable Design Concepts: Limited Noise Control: While visual privacy is available within the space, acoustic privacy is not. During periods of high occupancy, the volume levels within the space can be high potentially distracting occupants and hindering task oriented communication. Seating Design Limits Full Occupancy: As some of the seating areas were designed to facilitate communication, when individuals seek to participate in individual tasks, they are more likely to avoid such areas. The couches and bench seating serve as clear examples: If an occupant is alone, they are unlikely to sit adjacent to someone already occupying a couch cushion (appropriately sized for two) or directly across from someone occupying the bench. Inappropriate Work Surfaces: While some of the seating areas promote group communication, I witnessed users of the individual central and triple low tables forced to lean far forward to use the low tables for laptop or writing use. Further, the Couches offer a limited number of non-adjustable work surfaces including small side tables and ottomans.


Insufficient Task Lighting: The Individual Central and Window seats were the only areas with designated task lighting, and exhibited the highest occupancy of all the seating areas. While windows provide additional daylighting, this is a variable light source. Lack of Immediate Compost Disposal: Given the high proportion of food consumption during the lunch hours, the availability of appropriate disposal is an important consideration. The observed tendency of students to remain within the space post eating to engage in other tasks suggests that users are less likely to leave the space to access appropriate disposal.

Recommendations ! Acoustic Absorbing Elements: The space does contain carpet bellow the the couch area, however, that area has approximately half the seating capacity of the areas directly adjacent to Martha始s and a significantly lower volume level during the lunch hours. The addition of carpeting to the areas adjacent to Martha始s could help to dampen the noise from that area, though this has potential custodial repercussions as there is a high density of food consumption and traffic. A second alternative is the addition of acoustic panels from the ceiling which could help to mitigate sound transmission. Left: The existing (top) and suggested (bottom) carpet locations. Right: Acoustic paneling which could serve as a design element in itself or be subtly incorporated above the existing hanging fixtures.

Acoustic Panels

Carpet

Increased Availability of Customizable Seating: While there are many different seating environments within the space, there is a trend of single occupancy in spaces which seem to force or strongly suggest the goal of social interaction; especially in the Pair Windows (forced pairs) and the couch (general closeness). Modifying these spaces through seating orientation and perceived customization will allow users to choose their desired level of privacy. Window

Recommended

Existing

Instead of the default orientation of the Pair Window be to face inward,rotating them in the direction of the window creates the impression of separate seating. However, users can still turn the chairs inward if they wish to face the other occupant.

Window

For the couches, separate sections give the impression of a more definitive area of ownership, but may still be combined if need be. Pair Window

Couches


Adjustable Tables: Ergonomic, adjustable tables would allow users to customize their work area for greater functionality. In addition to height adjustments, allowing users to increase table size through fold out panels could allow users to spread out work and incorporate a greater number of group members more effectively. However, the consideration would need to be given to the maintenance and usability of these items. Increased Task Lighting: Additional task lighting could increase the usability of the space for work related activities. While arguably not appropriate for areas primarily used for eating / socializing (Long and Circular Tables), lighting of the Bench and Single Sided Bar could assist users as well as defining those areas as work areas.

Fixture Style

Task lights could be mounted above the bench, with the bulb and shade at such a level that the users head would not block the beam while the switch could be lower for easier accessibility.

Bird始s Eye

Standard clamp desk lamps could be added to the single sided bar, though it is important that the lamp itself can be moved over or away from the surface so that the already limited space is not further reduced.

Benches

Single Sided Bar

! Increased Compost Disposal: The addition of a compost bin in addition to the existing disposal receptacles would allow users to remain within the space, lessening the walking distance while increasing the visual access to personal belongings while disposing of trash. This could increase the perceived security of personal effects. !

Summary of Spacial Effectiveness The Commons aims to serve a variety of student tasks associated with independent and group work as well as social gathering while also providing The College of Human Ecology and Cornell University with a adaptable presentation and gathering space. - Statement of Purpose While The Commons does not provide an optimal space for all common tasks at all times, it does provide multiple unique environments during different times. During the lunch hours, the social and interactive nature of occupants represents the success of the space始s effectiveness as a social gathering location. The provision of unique seating areas allows users to participate in both individual and group work, while the space facilitates increased collaboration during non peak hours. Additionally, the space effectively serves as a main thoroughfare for both students and faculty, promoting spontaneous communication, as well as a college landmark.


Appendix Tuesday, October 23 (12 - 1pm)

Wed., October 24 (4:30 - 5:30pm)

Sunday, October 28 (6 - 6:30pm)

Individual Window Occupancy: 2 of 2

Occupancy: 1 of 2

Occupancy: 1 of 2

Task:

Task:

Task:

#

Laptop: 1

#

#

Other: 1

Interactions: None

Interactions: None

Laptop: 1

#

Laptop: 1

Interactions: None

#

#

Other 50%

Laptop 50%

Laptop 50%

Unoccupied 50%

Laptop 50%

Unoccupied 50%

Couches Occupancy: 16 of 25

Occupancy: 4 of 25

Occupancy: 4 of 25

Task:

Task:

Task:

!

Eating: 6

#

Laptop: 4

#

Laptop: 4

Interactions: None

#

Working: 3

#

Other: 3

#

Laptop: 2

#

Working: 2

Interactions: 2 pairs of individuals

Interactions: 5 pairs of individuals

Other 12% Working Unoccupied 12% 36% Laptop 16%

Eating 24%

Laptop 16%

Unoccupied 84%

Working 8% Laptop 8% Unoccupied 84%


Tuesday, October 23 (12 - 1pm)

Wed., October 24 (4:30 - 5:30pm)

Sunday, October 28 (6 - 6:30pm)

Pair Window Occupancy: 3 of 6

Occupancy: 1 of 6

Occupancy: 1 of 6

Task:

Task:

Task:

#

Laptop: 3

#

Laptop: 1

#

Interactions: None

Interactions: None

#

#

Laptop 50%

Interactions: None

Laptop 17%

Laptop 38%

Unoccupied 50%

Laptop: 1

Unoccupied 63%

Unoccupied 83%

Individual Central Occupancy: 3 of 3

Occupancy: 3 of 3

Occupancy: 0 of 3

Task:

Task:

Task:

!

Laptop: 2

#

Laptop: 3

#

Working: 1

Interactions: 1 pair of individuals

!

None

Interactions: None

Interactions: None

Working 33% Laptop 67%

Laptop 100%

Unoccupied 100%


Tuesday, October 23 (12 - 1pm)

Wed., October 24 (4:30 - 5:30pm)

Sunday, October 28 (6 - 6:30pm)

Triple Low Tables Occupancy: 4 of 9

Occupancy: 0 of 9

Occupancy: 0 of 9

Task:

Task:

Task:

!

Eating: 3

!

None

!

#

Laptop: 1

Interactions: None

None

Interactions: None

Interactions: None #

Laptop 11% Eating 33%

Unoccupied 100%

Unoccupied 56%

Unoccupied 100%

Bench Occupancy: 6 of 10

Occupancy: 3 of 10

Occupancy: 1 of 10

Task:

Task:

Task:

!

Eating: 1

!

Laptop: 2

!

Laptop: 1

#

Laptop: 4

#

Working: 1

Interactions: None

#

Working: 1

Interactions: None

Interactions: 1 pair of individuals

Working 10% Unoccupied 40% Laptop 40% Eating 10%

Working 10% Laptop 20% Unoccupied 70%

Laptop 10%

Unoccupied 90%


Tuesday, October 23 (12 - 1pm)

Wed., October 24 (4:30 - 5:30pm)

Sunday, October 28 (6 - 6:30pm)

Long Tables Occupancy: 15 of 20

Occupancy: 8 of 20

Occupancy: 0 of 20

Task:

Task:

Task:

#

Eating: 6

!

Laptop: 8

!

#

Laptop: 7

#

Other: 2

Interactions: 1 pair, one quad of individuals

None

Interactions: None

Interactions: 3 pairs, one quad of individuals #

Other 10% Unoccupied 25% Laptop 35%

Laptop 40%

Eating 30%

Unoccupied 100%

Unoccupied 60%

Circular Tables Occupancy: 22 of 24

Occupancy: 7 of 24

Occupancy: 0 of 20

Task:

Task:

Task:

!

Eating: 5

#

Laptop: 4

!

None

#

Laptop: 6

#

Working: 3

Interactions: None

#

Working: 7

#

Other: 4

Interactions: Two pairs of individuals

Interactions: One pair, one triple, three quads, one quintuple of individuals

Unoccupied 8% Other 17% Eating 21% Working 29% Laptop 25%

Working 13% Laptop 17%

Unoccupied 100% Unoccupied 71%


Tuesday, October 23 (12 - 1pm)

Wed., October 24 (4:30 - 5:30pm)

Sunday, October 28 (6 - 6:30pm)

Double Sided Bar Occupancy: 7 of 12

Occupancy: 1 of 12

Occupancy: 0 of 12

Task:

Task:

Task:

#

Eating: 3

#

Laptop: 1

#

Working: 2

Interactions: None

#

Other: 2

!

None

Interactions: None

Interactions: 1 pair of individuals

Other 17% Working 17%

Laptop 8% Unoccupied 42%

Unoccupied 100% Unoccupied 92%

Eating 25%

Single Sided Bar Occupancy: 7 of 9

Occupancy: 3 of 9

Occupancy: 0 of 9

Task:

Task:

Task:

!

Eating: 3

#

Laptop: 2

!

None

#

Laptop: 2

#

Working: 1

Interactions: None

#

Other: 2

Interactions: None

Interactions: None

Other Unoccupied 20% 20%

Laptop 30%

Eating 30%

Working 11% Laptop 22% Unoccupied 67%

Unoccupied 100%


Tuesday, October 23 (12 - 1pm)

Wed., October 24 (4:30 - 5:30pm)

Sunday, October 28 (6 - 6:30pm)

Summary Occupancy: 85 of 120 - 71%

Occupancy: 31 of 120 - 26%

Occupancy: 7 of 120 - 6%

Task:

Task:

Task:

!

Eating: 27 - 32%

!

Eating: 0

!

Eating: 0

#

Laptop: 30 - 36%

#

Laptop: 26 - 84%

#

Laptop: 5 - 71%

#

Working: 14 - 16%

#

Working: 5 - 16%

#

Working: 2 - 29%

#

Other: 14 - 16%

#

Other: 0

#

Other: 0

Interactions: 46 individuals interacting with others - 38%

Interactions: 12 individuals interacting with others - 39%

Other 12% Unoccupied Working 29% 12% Laptop 25%

Working Laptop4% 22%

Interactions: 4 individuals interacting with others - 57%

Laptop 4% Working 2%

Unoccupied 74%

Eating 23%

Unoccupied 94%

Image Citations: "Acoustic Panels." FAR Acoustic Panels. N.p., n.d. Web. <http://www.faraudio.com/ acoustic_panels.php>.

"Staring at Acoustic Ceiling Tiles." Queueing Theory, Psychology of Waiting Lines, Hospital, Healthcare. N.p., n.d. Web. <http:// www.shmula.com/staring-atacoustic-ceiling-tiles/1717/>.

"Acoustical Ceilings." Wood Panels for Use In Acoustical Ceilings. N.p., n.d. Web. <http://www.acousti.com/ acoustical/26.htm>.

"Product: 45 Kilo Hallo Wall." Architecture Magazine. N.p., n.d. Web. <http:// www.architectmagazine.com/ lighting/product-45-kilo-hallowall.aspx>. "Brilliant Lighting." Gold Notes. N.p., n.d. Web. <http:// jgkitchens.blogspot.com/ 2009/05/style-list-3-150-maxhome-office.html>.


Post Occupancy Evaluation of Human Ecology Commons  

An evaluation of the effectiveness of The Commons at providing for student needs on Cornell's Campus. Spring 2012

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