The Bartlett School of Architecture


EQUAL: Configuration and Design in Caring Environments

This was a one-year research project funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) that linked together two previously-funded EQUAL projects.

Those were EQUAL: Profiling the Housing Stock for Older People: From Domesticity, that was hosted by University College London and carried out between April 1998 and December 2000, and Design for dementia: an evidence-based approach to standards in caring environments (latterly known as Design in Caring Environments or DICE), hosted by the University of Sheffield and carried out between January 2000 and May 2003.

This link project, conducted between September 2002 and August 2003, carried out a building configuration analysis of the 38 residential care and nursing homes that constituted the building database for the DICE research, using the 'space syntax' research methodology developed during the late 1970s at UCL. The 'space syntax' methodology has been shown in numerous studies to provide useful and objective representations, descriptions and measurements of the layout of complex buildings that shed light on their functional performance and experience by building users.

The link project had two principal objectives:

  • firstly, to test whether overall characteristics of the care home layouts in the DICE sample such as their degree of integration / segregation and the spatial intelligibility of the layout - factors that cannot easily be captured in a checklist of design variables or detected when walking around the interior of a building - were important to the perceived quality of life of staff and residents and to the well-functioning of the building, and
  • secondly, to test whether these spatial, configurational variables related systematically to the typologies, checklists and indicators that the DICE team had developed into an assessment tool, the Sheffield Care Assessment Matrix (SCEAM), for use in evaluating the design of residential care homes and nursing homes for older people.

The research aim was to identify those variables of building layout that impacted (positively or negatively) on the functional efficiency of the building and the perceived quality of life of its staff and residents. These two groups might not value the same properties in the building and so the impact any design variables needed to be assessed separately for each group.


Professor Julienne Hanson
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Reem Zako
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  • Ethical and Methodological Issues in Data Sharing Between Two Research Projects. A presentation made by Professor Julienne Hanson on 10TH September 2004 at the British Society of Gerontology (BSG) 33rd Annual Scientific Meeting.
  • Configuration and Design in Caring Environments: syntax and quality of life in a sample of residential care homes for older people. A paper by Professor Julienne Hanson and Reem Zako presented at the Fifth International Space Syntax Symposium in Delft, June 2005, and published in its proceedings.