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Title: The interaction between design and occupier behaviour in the safety of new dwellings
Authors: McDermott, Hilary
Issue Date: 2007
Publisher: © Hilary McDermott
Abstract: This thesis is concerned with occupier behaviour within new homes and how behaviour can interact with design features to lead to an increased risk of injury or ill-health. Unintentional home injuries are a significant problem within the UK and reducing the incidence and severity of such injuries is a public health priority. Preventative measures targeting risk factors for unintentional injury in the home have tended to focus on either primary efforts to reduce hazards within the environment or behaviour change strategies. It is important however, to also recognise the potential contribution of the interactions that arise between dwelling design and occupier behaviour and how these may influence safety and well-being. This research comprised four studies, adopting a multi-methodological approach. The first three studies used triangulated investigations to examine occupier experiences of inhabiting a new home. The final study offered an exploration of the attitudes of professionals responsible for the design of new dwellings in relation to occupier safety and the factors which shape current dwelling design. In the initial stage of the research 40 in-depth, semi-structured interviews and home inspections were conducted with new build occupiers. A range of unsafe interactions were reported in relation to building features including self-closing fire doors, loft access and service pipes and cabling. A number of features were also identified which occupiers felt presented a risk to their health and safety. These features included fire egress windows, sloped access thresholds and descending newel posts, for example. To assess how home interactions develop over time a diary-based study was undertaken, allowing a temporal assessment of occupier behaviour. In total, 9 usable diaries were completed by participants over durations varying from 9 days to 211 days. Similar unsafe interactions were reported during the course of this diary study and a range of features were reported as presenting a risk of unintentional injury or ill-health. These features included high hot water temperatures, sloped internal ceilings and loft access. A temporal analysis of interactions identified that occupiers are initially proactive in seeking solutions to problems within their homes but these attempts are not always successful. The information gathered during these first two studies was used to design a questionnaire which was distributed to 794 new homes in the Midlands area. The aim of this questionnaire was to establish the prevalence of the reported interactions amongst a wider population. Quantitative data from this study suggested that many of the unsafe interactions reported during the previous studies are commonplace in new homes. The final study examined the attitudes of professionals responsible for the design of new dwellings in relation to occupier safety and sought to identify the factors which shape current dwelling design. Semi-structured interviews were undertaken with 14 architects and designers. This study revealed that some of those responsible for dwelling design have an unsympathetic attitude towards occupier safety and well-being and rely almost entirely on building regulations to ensure a level of health and safety within the home. The design professional participants described a number of factors which influence current dwelling design, sometimes these being at variance with each other, for example developer needs can sometimes conflict with Local Authority planning requirements. The research has established that many of the interactions that arise within the domestic setting are influenced by environmental, behavioural and social factors. The thesis argues that prevention strategies adopting an ecological systems approach to injury prevention present an opportunity to address the complex set of factors affecting safety in the home.
Description: A Doctoral Thesis. Submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the award of Doctor of Philosophy of Loughborough University.
URI: https://dspace.lboro.ac.uk/2134/15744
Appears in Collections:PhD Theses (Design School)

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