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User evaluation of the Walter Gage student residence at the University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada Mallik, Devi Prosad

Abstract

This empirical study is based on a broad premise of relationship between human behavior and the structured micro-environment within buildings. It took the form of a survey to evaluate the design quality of a student residence by means of personal observation and the interpretation of responses of a systematically selected sample of residents to a set of structured questionnaires. The Walter Gage Residence, a group of newly-built highrise, coed -living dormitories within the campus of the University of British Columbia Vancouver, serves as a case to illustrate application of behavioral premises and architectural design. Research on it was mainly based on four techniques: (1) literature research, (2) systematic observation, (3) exploratory- interview, and (4) distribution of questionnaire among a systematically selected sample. The information includes data on the residents' general biographic background, childhood residential environment, just-previous residence, tenure of living in the Gage Residence, potential mobility and criteria for selecting the Walter Gage Residence to live in. The students' perception and self-rating of the quality of architectural design of the Gage Residence as measured on a 7-point semantic scale specifically developed for the purpose while residents' perception of the social climate within their own suites were obtained on a standard environmental scale. An attempt was made to assess residents' friendship patterns, mutual trust, and helping behavior. Assessment of daily activity patterns of students inside the residence also included information on their average daily hours spent in study and in other extracurricular activities within quads and common block lounges in main floor. A measure of residents' perception of personal space, privacy and territoriality was also attempted. Part of this study was designed to determine whether the results of some similar studies previously conducted in the USA could be replicated. Finally, the users' overall satisfaction with living in this residence was measured. The summary of conclusions were that: 1. While the towers of the Gage Residence were observed to possess a medium density, the emerging trend of its residents' perception and rating of its architectural design qualities conformed reasonably with the results of previous studies on low or low-medium density residences in the USA. The Gage resident rated the design of his residence positively on convenience, uniqueness, safety and relaxation, and negatively on crampedness. Conversely, Gage residents' ratings were found to parallel dimensions that would be considered desirable with high density residences eg. safety, convenience and well orderliness. Furthermore, the Gage residents' indicated a relatively higher degree of helping behavior, but a lower degree of social responsiblity motivation as compared to other studies on equivalent (medium) density student residences in the USA. 2. In the perception of their social climate in their respective quad apartments, Gage residents rated high on the subscales of involvement, emotional support, academic achievement, intellectuality and independance, but low in student influence as compared to some previous studies. Also, users' perception of the social environment of their quads positively correlated with their judgement about its architectural qualities. 3. Residents' self-evaluation of the architectural design attributes of their residence were influenced by their childhood housing, type of urban area, just previous residence, mobility, selection criteria for living in it, friendship pattern, mutual trust stress/anxiety and overall satisfaction. 4. Residents' overall satisfaction with living in the Gage Residence was generally influenced by their biographic background. In particular, area of childhood living housing type, just previous residence before moving in the Gage Residence, degree of mobility, tenure in this residence, living with more number of self-chosen mates, (degree of intimacy), and mutual trust have all influenced their satisfaction. 5. Although living in this residence was found acceptable by the majority of residents, their responses indicate that its design imposed limitation on the desirable level of social interaction within it. The self-sufficiently designs quads (suites) have severely limited students' involvement with adjacent quads. Consequently, the stereotyped design has produced a monotonous, cold and socially sterile living environment typically prevalent in downtown apartment living. In short, the design of this residence has embodied all the best and worst features of apartment living.

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