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Baborska-Narożny, M and Stevenson, F (2019) Service controls interfaces in housing: usability and engagement tool development. Building Research & Information, 47(03), 290–304.

  • Type: Journal Article
  • Keywords: Building controls; building evaluation; building performance; building services ergonomics; feedback; housing; inhabitants; usability;
  • ISBN/ISSN: 0961-3218
  • URL: https://doi.org/10.1080/09613218.2018.1501535
  • Abstract:
    Domestic buildings are increasingly complex, saturated with services that need coherent control if design and inhabitants’ goals are to be achieved. The evidenced inappropriate use of controls linked with a performance gap suggests that effective methods for assessing the inhabitants’ relationship with control interfaces for services are needed within building performance evaluation and practice studies. The development of a bespoke domestic usability tool over two iterations is presented, demonstrating new insights into the relationship between design and inhabitant engagement with controls. Deep contextual development came from trialling the tool in four UK domestic case studies. Understanding the purpose of a control interface and the inhabitants’ role was found to be a fundamental diagnostic for inhabitant engagement. The tool became a prompt for immediate action or further information-seeking for one-quarter of households involved in its application. However, the affordances and physical issues identified could not be addressed without major physical changes, which should have been picked up at the design and construction stages. Organizational learning based on the tool findings was triggered in one of four developers involved. The challenges for developing usability studies are discussed with recommendations provided for different actors in the housing and construction industry on how to progress them.