Gresham Smith’s Mike Sewell Wins ARCHITECT Magazine’s R&D Award

Gresham Smith is excited to announce that Active Transportation Service Line Leader, Mike Sewell, P.E., L.C.I., has been named a winner in ARCHITECT magazine’s 14th annual R&D Awards. The awards program honors industry-changing design approaches, research pursuits, products and technologies, and the processes that made them possible.

ARCHITECT magazine named Sewell’s empathic design technology, which measures emotional responses of people reacting to the built environment, as one of seven winners in this year’s awards. By measuring biometric markers, Sewell’s new platform can pinpoint where people exhibit stress while engaging in an environment. This innovation transforms anecdotal experiences into quantifiable, geolocated data that designers can use to inform and tailor their approach for user experience and safety.

“This new approach gives us additional insights on why and how users respond to an environment,” Sewell said. “We are using this new analysis tool to better predict problematic infrastructure and design optimal places that allow users more comfort and to exhibit targeted behavior.”

“Not only have I spent a career working in the multimodal space, I’m a daily bicycle commuter myself. I knew from personal experience what all cyclists and pedestrians know: if something feels stressful or unsafe, it probably is unsafe. I wanted to explore that correlation and research if that instinct could be quantified and measured. What this technology is showing is that it can. These findings are poised to be completely transformative for how we think about safety and user experience on our roadways.”

Sewell has been testing his empathic design tool as a part of the redesign of Eastern Parkway in Louisville, Kentucky, the bicycle master plan update for the University of Kentucky in Lexington as well as numerous safety projects across the Southeast. His new technology is one of a number of research & development initiatives that is being studied as a part of the firm’s new Studio-X Innovation Incubator. The patent is pending.

“Mike’s initial work on piloting a tool that can measure how we react to the world around us could have impacts across many industries and disciplines,” said Randy Gibson, chief strategy officer at Gresham Smith. “While the platform was initially tested within the transportation space, it could transform the way architects and engineers alike measure how people experience their environment and the impact it has on their health. It’s a terrific example of the kind of creativity and ingenuity that we value and promote at Gresham Smith.”

An overview of the tool and an interview with Sewell can be found online and in the July issue of ARCHITECT.