Interaction of man and his environment: Human-centered design of the built environment in the United States

Zuzana Čerešňová


The aim of this paper is to introduce the importance and various methods of human-centered design (mainly universal design) in relation to environmental psychology and neuroscience, as well as pointing to the legislative, research and educational conditions in the United States. The contribution is based on six-month research at the Institute for Human-centered Design (IHCD) in Boston within the Fulbright Program.

The human-centered design is focused on creating an environment that takes into account the diversity of people, their various physical, psychological, cognitive, cultural, religious and other differences, which are quite significant in the multicultural United States. The aim of this methodology is to achieve an inclusive environment in which a broad spectrum of people will have the equal opportunity to use the physical environment, products, services and information, and also actively participate in society.

In the United States, the interconnection of human-centered design with environmental psychology and neuroscience in architecture has been expanded.  These sciences provide scientific insights into the functioning of human in the environment and draw attention to the psycho-social aspects and the impact of the environment on human health and well-being.

Environmental psychology deals with the symbiotic relationship between human and the environment, and in particular examines human’s perceptual and emotional responses to environmental attributes, while proposing ways to modify the environment to enhance positive responses and reduce negative impacts on humans.

Neuroscience in architecture helps scientifically explain the relationships between human and the environment, especially processes of perception, memory, decision making, emotional reactions and interactions within the environment.

One of the human-centered design methods is Universal Design, which has its roots in the United States. Universal design does not provide “one size fits all” solutions but highlights the need for flexibility and adaptability of the environment to reflect the individual needs of a wide range of people with diverse abilities and limitations. Universal design also has to respond to the contextual complexity of the environment, such as cultural, social and economic conditions.

Increasing awareness of the impact of the built environment on human health and well-being helps to emphasize the importance of universal design for the whole population.

Keywords: human, interaction, human-centric design, accessibility, environmental psychology, legislation, neuroscience, universal design, USA