Good ideas happen when people interact. In an effective research environment, people tend to have chance encounters in corridors, at the coffee point or near meeting rooms.

But what if a building could increase that connectivity? What if we could “engineer” those chance meetings in a lab, university or research institute, making them not only more likely to happen, but also increase their depth and meaning?

As part of BuroHappold’s analytics service, our science and technology team have developed a tool that does just that. By modelling a day-in-life of your building, we map people flow, behaviours and activities, looking at connections and stopping points. Our new designs then increase the opportunities for these chance interactions, making the environment a more effective research environment for people, and ultimately increasing productivity and quality of outputs.

Productivity in a research environment means generating good ideas and acting on them. We want to increase that productivity by modelling and then adjusting the environment to optimise it for every person who works there.

Andy Parker, science and technology sector director

Creating effective research environments through data analysis

The effectiveness of research environments is a complex issue and easily overlooked as being too difficult to assess, predict or optimise. Each year, UK organisations invest billions on research. How to use that budget wisely is a key question for every institution. Should it be spent on people, equipment, capital projects for new refurb facilities or investment in small, start-up research firms? We are developing a data-driven approach to facilitate these decisions, which ultimately improves predictability and research success.

What factors affect productivity in a science or technology environment?


People location
Level of interaction
Dwell time


Space utilisation
Meeting room utilisation
Desk utilisation
Elevator vs. stair usage

Studies on workplaces and labs have shown that several factors impact the quality and efficiency of working environments. These factors include the quality of the spaces, the organisational structure and culture, communication patterns, types and diversity of people employed and operational processes.

Combining these factors and studying them provides a powerful, holistic assessment of the effectiveness of the research environment. When incorporated into an interactive assessment tool benchmarked by big data, we analyse a diverse range of options and refine strategic, design and operational decisions that maximise outcomes for every client.

An analytics tool that creates effective research environments

Our strategic assessment tool helps research organisations to understand where they stand and which parameters can be leveraged to efficiently maximise research effectiveness.

Interested in reading more about this subject? The Jack Copland Centre, a new centre for the Scottish National Blood Transfusion Service (SNBTS) is a great example of design that encourages interaction between the teams. Based around a central communal meeting area that encourages transparency between the different departments.

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