Human Responsive Design and Human Resource Development - HRD2


In their book, Building Community in Buildings, the Design and Culture of Dynamic Workplaces, Jana Kemp and Ken Baker identified six variables that are key to productive workplaces. Productivity for the corporation makes economic sense as small increases in productivity can mean large gains to the bottom line. For example, when the Herman Miller Company built their new production facility in 1996 they focused on environmental design elements such as daylighting, garden spaces and operable windows for office staff. The resulting measured productivity gains paid for the human responsive design elements in only a few months.

How does your company want to be seen by your community? How would you like your employees to view the company? Is your facility responsive to staff and visitor needs through responsiveness to the site, the climate, and the culture of the area? Are you building your business through a process of building community?

Ken Baker and Jana Kemp can guide your company to making good environmental decisions in your building space that lead to increased worker satisfaction and increased profits for the organization. Our services include:

  • Human Responsive Design and Human Resource Development Assessment
  • Developing Mindfulness Practices
  • Occupant Surveys and Interviews
  • Dialoguing Sessions for Management and Staff
  • Architectural Consultations on Human Responsive Design Elements
  • Development of Client Specific HRD2 Documents for Marketing and In-house use


Contact either Jana or Ken to discuss your specific needs:
Ken Baker –

Jana Kemp –


Excerpts from: Building Community in Buildings

Chapter 1: A Century of Change

ALMOST ANYWHERE YOU sit these days, whether an airport, a coffee shop, your office, or workspace, you can see the evolution from what was to what is.
The older you are the more pronounced the changes possibly seem. The world and society have shifted. Thirty and forty years ago most of the world’s middle class worked in factories and industrial jobs, and our workmates lived in our neighborhoods. We knew them at work and we knew their spouses and children and pets all by name. Children walked to the same schools together and played together at home and on teams at school. We shared neighborhood-centric values because we lived them shoulder-to-shoulder in our neighborhoods. We understood what our ancestors and theirs under- stood intrinsically: that building community together made the whole of the human experience better.

During the twentieth century, the populace in transitional economies such as Western Europe and the United States moved from field and factory work into office environments that expanded in the 1950s and on through the end of the century. Population density and land values shifted over the century, concentrating people and real estate value into cities and towers. Towers became places of both office-oriented work and year-round living. Building Community in Buildings is about the exploration of the dynamic relationship between people and the buildings they work in and the community that gets created in these buildings. In workplace buildings and towers, people want and need soulful connections to themselves and others as well as to their work. People want group space and individual space, accessible and healthy space, and space that supports thinking, being present, and being focused on and productive with the work at hand.

Chapter 2: People, Buildings and the Natural Environment Connection
Human Responsive Symbolism

Whether good or bad, every building expresses physical symbols of the culture that created it. These symbols are in the details of the structure and in the physical space and layout of t he building and the site and act as a set of instructions for how to use and how to interact with the building.

In 2000, Barcelona, Spain, celebrated a renowned twentieth century architect Antonio Gaudi by opening up many of his designs to public tour. Gaudi was known for hi s human-centered architecture and human-scale details were integral to his buildings. Imagine walking through an apartment building and becoming aware that the bathrooms were designed to support more than what we normally consider the basic bathroom functions; for example a small shelf to hold a hairbrush strategically placed beside a sink so that to reach for it required intuition and not thought. Movement through Gaudi designed spaces is easy and flowing, again intuitive, and no space is so large that it overwhelms the user—very much the opposite of what we see today in North American homes.

These kinds of personal details (symbols) were not exclusive to Gaudi. Old-school architects used to design homes and other buildings wit h human-scale detailing—often including the design of furniture—but we seldom pay architects to do full-scale design anymore. Something else to consider is this: Our buildings of the past 20 years have become so large that we can only afford the lowest bid therefore leaving human-scale symbols by the wayside. We have so much space we cannot afford quality.

Chapter 5: Building Mindfulness and the Humanization of Buildings

Although, as stated earlier, individuals ultimately take responsibility for their practices, the building space can and should support organizational values, intent, and goals. Intent is reflected in the space through those elements of human responsive design and human resource development. Ideally, what we want is a space that nurtures our physical and mental health; provides a safe and secure environment in which to work; builds on our sense of community; rewards us; gives us some control over our personal comfort; and, provides a physical environment that stimulates creativity and boosts our morale (you will find more detail on these and other productivity variables in Chapter 6). For now, let us consider how these variables blend with the physical elements of space, thus setting the stage for mindful action.

In order for a space to help us be more mindful, it must first engage our senses in a manner that more easily allows us to focus and act in the present. Ideally, a building is broken into activity zones with each zone decorated to support a specific set of activities. For example, a workspace zone, where cubicles are the rule, may utilize maximum daylighting, color schemes that are energizing and view areas—either windows or artwork—that allow for mini breaks at your desk. A conversation-gathering place, a break room or cafeteria, may use daylight that is filtered through plants and trees to provide a more relaxed or social atmosphere. Wall colors may be more muted than office area colors; textures would change and furnishings would be of a design and layout to support human interaction.

This is really a practice of sensory design. Sensory design—designing spaces t hat t ap our senses or cognitive mind as opposed t o our rational mind—is not complicated, though it does require rational mind thought and process to achieve intended goals; and as you will see later in the chapter with the hospital example, sensory design is becoming standard practice for some building types. Gardens are wonderful sensory spaces.