Olmsted County Human Services - Rochester, MN

Olmsted County Human Services - Rochester, MN

Theory and Practice. Architecture is about user experience. And user experience can be modeled measured and tested. Architecture is often about design intuition of user experience, but it is far less common for architecture to include the sciences of human perception and cognition, user preference and building performance in their practice.


Orfield Laboratories in the nation’s only independent multi-sensory building-performance consulting laboratory, providing design, research and testing to the architectural field via the use of both objective and subjective applied research. Our building performance consulting includes acoustics and AV, daylighting, lighting, thermal comfort, indoor air quality and occupancy research and measurement.


Our orientation is to focus on perceptual and cognitive comfort and preference, via computer modeling, product validation testing, occupant measurement and performance commissioning, all based on our building performance standards and research methodologies.


Perception and cognition can be a negative or positive filter for user experience, and productivity,  satisfaction and complaints are most commonly associated with the perception side of building design.  Buildings that are suffused with high quality daylighting, have wonderful low glare lighting, are quiet and private, have comfortable thermal environments and have great indoor air quality generate far more positive user response and far fewer complaints.

On the Olmsted County project, Orfield Labs developed the architect competition, did pre and post-occupancy studies, designed the acoustics, AV daylighting, lighting, workstation specification, provided standards for thermal comfort and IAQ, and provided performance commissioning. The building came in $3MM under budget, and the standards saved hundreds of thousands of dollars in performance commissioning corrections.

Western Homes - The Cottages

Western Homes - The Cottages

Specialties. In architecture, we consult in many building types including offices, industrial, civic and government, schools and higher education, healthcare, senior housing, hospitality, religious, multi-housing, retail, performing arts and sports. With a specialty in human perception, we approach each of these building types with a special focus on human comfort, performance and preference.  Many of our projects have been published. We founded the first workplace research collaboration in the U.S., the Open Plan Working Group (OPWG), and the first architectural design research collaboration, the Architectural Research Consortium (ARC). We have convened 33 national design research conferences in these two groups.

Orfield Labs has a specialty in perceptual and cognitive disabilities, and their application to the newer field of perceptual and cognitive universal design.  We have a strong interest in projects in the disability field, including aging, autism, mental illness, PTSD, SPD, ADHD, blindness and deafness, and we have developed exemplar projects in senior housing and autism design, holding national design research conferences on each of these building types.

On the Western Homes "Cottages", we were contacted by one of our ARC architects, AHTS Architects, to introduce his client, Kris Hanson, CEO of Western Home Communities, or our process of Research-Based-Design.  We were retained to apply our new aging and dementia standards (acoustics, daylighting, lighting, thermal comfort and indoor air quality) to this new 'household care' style campus, under an Intellectual Property license for this project.  This project was submitted to the  International Dementia Conference in London, administered by the world famous Dementia Centre program at the University of Stirling in Scotland.  It won the top Innovation Award, being selected from all projects submitted worldwide.

Fraser Clinic - Woodbury, MN

Fraser Clinic - Woodbury, MN

Philosophy. It is our belief that clients and design teams can complete exceptional projects in normal budget ranges if the focus is on the user groups, and the budgets favor this focus. Excellent projects are more about knowledge and the application of good process than about budgets. And the best projects always start from the inside, letting the facade first serve the occupants and then the public.

On the Fraser Clinic in Woodbury Minnesota, Orfield Labs was retained by CEO Diane Cross, to apply Orfield Lab's Autism Standards for acoustics, lighting, daylighting, thermal comfort, indoor air quality, design uniformity and color management.  This project was the worlds first ASD building designed based on our new ASD Hyper-Sensitivity Standards, which took over two years of study to develop.The Intellectual Property (IP) behind this standard was licensed to Fraser for this project.

Richfield Municipal Center - Richfield, MN

Richfield Municipal Center - Richfield, MN

Summary. Whether our architectural and end user clients are looking for single discipline consulting assistance or comprehensive research-based design and testing, the firm is a remarkable resource to add to the design team, so that the user group is the focus of the project.

On the Richfield Municipal Center, we were retained by the City Council, headed by Mayor Debbie Goettel, an engineer herself, to insure that the building had predictable and high quality performance. In this process, we provided consulting on daylighting, lighting, acoustics, thermal comfort, and indoor air quality, as well as performance commissioning.  Many significant changes were made as the design moved forward.  We also designed the lighting, acoustics and AV in the Council Chamber.