Movement Analytics

Data-led design

New data capture and analysis techniques can be implemented in the design phase to ensure stadiums, arenas and other high-traffic spaces function successfully, says Movement Strategies’ Simon Owen

Architects are under continued pressure to create original, functional designs that can be delivered on time and on budget, while maximising the user experience. The world around us is changing fast, and the integration of data-led decision making into the design process can prove invaluable in ensuring that spaces are fit for purpose.

If utilised correctly, data can provide unparalleled information on how a space is used across a variety of contexts and demographics. With the evolution of these processes, architects have huge opportunities at their disposal to allow data and people movement analytics to shape their designs – from concept planning all the way through to event and building management.

Historically, architect-led design teams have used one-off surveys to gain information on a planned area, allowing them to make rough assumptions and understand (to an extent) how a proposed design would work in practice.

However, such processes are not without weaknesses, and with new data capture and analysis techniques, it’s now much easier to pinpoint people movement patterns and to gather evidence on actual behaviours.

Much of the new data has been enabled by the proliferation of mobile phones and ability to monitor movement through the cellular network or feed back location information via app-based engagement or local WiFi or Bluetooth connections. Using these methods not only provides more precise information across a greater range of scenarios, but also allows architects to draw more robust and reliable conclusions about how people behave, creating a design that more accurately represents the needs of the intended users.

If the right information is issued and interpreted correctly, these insights can drive tangible benefits during the design process, creating an evidence base that improves the likelihood of getting planning approval and ensuring plans are cost-effective. For example, during the design of London’s Olympic Park, analysis of anticipated crowd movement behaviours allowed Movement Strategies to advise on the number and size of bridges connecting different areas of the site (often an expensive element of a design) saving tens of millions of pounds in capital infrastructure costs.

Another challenge for architects is how to accurately plan a space that may be used in a variety of contexts, or by different groups of people. This could range from transport hubs experiencing increased pressures during musical or sporting events to individuals using a space differently because of changes in the weather, the time of day or the nature of the event.

During the whole event experience the behaviours of spectators can vary hugely on entering and leaving venues. By using data to look at how these behaviours vary, designers can work out the most appropriate solutions – for example, the numbers of lifts or escalators and where to position them to ensure a safely and timely entry and exit from a stadium or arena.

During our Future Gatelines project, we analysed commuters’ behaviour and compared how different people use train stations, particularly in relation to queueing. By looking at video footage at London Victoria Station and Gatwick Airport and comparing this to ticket information, it was possible to recognise trends in how people interacted with ticket gates and the space around them. This, can be used to inform future station designs.

By including pedestrian modelling, analysts can look at a range of scenarios with differing volumes of people, which allowed designers to create a coherent plan which accommodated multiple eventualities.

Continuous process
Although architects are primarily concerned with the design of buildings, it is important to remember that developers are keen to commission builds that can be continuously evaluated and adapted depending on changing situational demands. WiFi applications, which can capture occupant or visitor location data with accuracy and frequency, are beginning to be built into new commercial developments, resulting in a greater understanding of how people are choosing to use spaces.

Constant updates and analysis of data allows the process of site management and optimisation to be more fluid, providing operators with the freedom and opportunity to make changes based on emerging behaviour. This is particularly helpful when the numbers of people passing through an area is subject to change – for example, as a result of temporary events.

During the London 2012 Olympics, Movement Strategies staff worked in a number of the venue control rooms, monitoring crowd location data in real-time, including feeds from ticket scanners and mobile phone data.

Simultaneously, other members of the team worked with Transport for London, providing up-to-date intelligence on the performance of the transport network and using all this data, we were able to advise decision-makers on emerging trends, and to highlight potential issues affecting large numbers of spectators, both at venues and as they travelled around London.

Visitor numbers are still collected regularly at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, forming the basis for the planning of events or commercial actions.

More than ever, there are opportunities for architects to leverage the power of movement data within their designs. From the planning stages through to evaluation, the ability to accurately understand its purpose and provide updates on how it’s used is becoming more integral to the ultimate success of a development.

Pavilion visitors

Movement Strategies worked on the UK Pavilion at Expo 2017 in Astana, Kazakhstan. A study made sure the pavilion handled visitor movement as desired. The firm produced footfall estimates and a test event was held to observe visitor behaviour and ensure it offered the required visitor experience while maximising throughput.

Controlling football crowds

Olympique Lyonnais FC hosted its first match at the new Stade de Lumières in Lyon, France, in 2016. The club employed movement experts to review stadium access, crowd flow, visitor processes and operational plans prior to the inaugural match. The work included feasibility studies and transport demand forecasts.

About the author

Simon Owen
Simon Owen

Simon Owen is a director at Movement Strategies, specialising in people movement, crowd planning and transport planning. Owen uses technology to capture and understand people-movement patterns, and how to use this knowlege as the basis for design and management advice. He has worked on large-scale projects, including London 2012, the Wimbledon Championships and the O2 Arena, London.

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