Quantification of Good Design in NYC

Buildings and neighborhoods are continually evolving from the moment of their conception. How can we possibly know if the building or built environment is meeting the needs of its residents, much less if it is exceeding their needs.

The only path to the essential feedback loop of ensuring sustainable design is through collection collecting the data that is relevant to human quality of life and well being. Undoubtedly the value of knowing the purpose for measuring experience makes it an attainable challenge.

The Atlantic City Lab article Quantifying the Livable City provides the case study of New York City’s Hudson Yards, where Constantine Kontokosta, the deputy director of academics at New York University’s Center for Urban Science and Progress (CUSP), is working diligently to collect relevant and dimensional data.

“Kontokosta says, ‘in that we’re trying to really measure along multiple dimensions of not just the buildings or the infrastructure, but also how people are interacting with the space, and how the design of the physical space influences activity, public health, and social interaction.’ He emphasizes that all disclosure of information for the Hudson Yards quantification project is voluntary.

Big data on the other hand raises a slight variation on the asking of this question, highlighted in the article excerpt:

“There’s two camps in terms of how people are looking at this data-city connection,” he explains. “One is, ‘We have so much data, let’s just correlate it all, analyze it all, and see what interesting patterns we find and respond to them.’ And others are saying, ‘No, let’s think of the important, interesting questions and then find the data we need and then begin to address those questions.'” Kontokosta says both ways have merit, but it’s clear which way he leans. “I think so much is really formulated on … the nature of the questions you’re asking.

The development provides an ideal laboratory for CUSP, a new public-private research center, inaugurated by Bloomberg in 2012 and based in Brooklyn, that seeks to pioneer a “science of cities” using large-scale data. Areas of investigation include transportation—are enough taxis serving the city’s outer boroughs?—and urban noise, which has an impact on health, crime, educational outcomes, and real-estate values, as the CUSP website notes.

A visualization of a recent New York City energy-use analysis
(Constantine Kontokosta)




Margaret Spyker

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