As consultants, we work daily on a quality, beautiful and usable public space. Then we do it with passion and dynamism and with all the functional tools we have for it. For example, the CROW Maintenance Quality Guidelines have helped us for years to control and account for our management work.
There is one thing we are not very good at yet: are we really getting the right result that meets the perception and needs of the residents? The management of public space through experience is in full development.
The source of the experience lies in the needs of the residents
We all have needs. One part is very clear: hardly anyone likes garbage on the street or noise from neighbors. These are examples of experiences that arise from functional needs. By tackling this, you remove the nuisance or it gives a feeling of cleanliness. But does this also mean that the resident lives comfortably? Unfortunately no!
It turns out that it takes more than tackling functional, calculable questions such as the number of bins per square meter or installing insulation against your neighbor’s wall.
To really contribute to a pleasant living environment, we must deepen our scope. We seek out the deepest needs of residents. Like the need to escape the hustle and bustle of everyday life, or to experience the feeling of freedom somewhere around your home.
Innovative AI-based needs assessment
The questioning of needs directly gives little or nothing. After all, hardly anyone is aware of all their needs. With new research techniques, using AI (artificial intelligence), it is also possible to uncover and even quantify deeper needs. This should sound like music to many advisors and managers: Make a feeling measurable!
Together, Mark and I are experimenting with how we can make experience and needs research applicable to public space. Little applied research has been conducted on this topic at the policy level. At least not with the help of AI.
How does it work and what does it give?
A needs study was carried out for the municipality of Breda in order to involve the population of Breda in the redevelopment of the Galderse Meren; a recreational lake south of the city. About 3,750 people took part.
When quantifying recreation needs at Galderse Lakes, residents could describe their ideal recreational lake using images (photos). Photos trigger the subconscious brain, where your deepest needs are stored. With the help of AI, the deeper needs for waterside recreation were extracted from the narrative explanations people gave about the images. The dominant needs were then determined for each age and income bracket.
Prepare for a positive experience
The approach shows that with the use of innovative research, a positive resident experience can be pre-sorted into the design of a public space. It therefore offers measurable tools to take our field to the next level: We are not only working on a functional and usable public space, but also on a pleasant living environment for the inhabitants of the villages and neighborhoods of Breda.
Ivo Derksen, Strategic Advisor Public Space, Municipality of Breda
Mark Stohr, Director of Forum Business Research
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