Brief Historical Background and Development
Research in human spatial behaviour began before the 1960s in the United States of America, but it was during that decade when social scientists showed increasing interest in that field. Two influential books, that of anthropologist Edward T. Hall’s (1966) "The Hidden Dimension" and psychologist Robert Sommer’s (1969) "Personal Space: The Behavioural Basis of Design" spurred further interests amongst those researchers. In the late 60s, the field spread to the United Kingdom and Western Europe, and to Japan and other parts of the world from the 70s.
Multidisciplinary Nature and Nomenclatures
Various disciplines have contributed towards the study of human spatial behaviour. Amongst the earliest works included contributions from ornithologists (1920s) and ethologists (1950s). Other disciplines that contributed further research in that field included sociologists, ecologists, geographers, psychiatrists and architects. That is why, synonymous with that field of study have been many, such as Man-Environment or People-Environment Relations, Ecological Psychology, Architectural Psychology, and currently more popularly known as Environmental Psychology or Environment-Behaviour studies. The nomenclatures adopted for the field seemed to emphasise on contributions of the particular discipline, like the more recent "Neuro-Architecture", amongst the medical professions.
Importance and Goal of Environment-Behaviour Studies
Often, the failures in the design of the built environment can be attributed to the lack of understanding about human spatial behaviour amongst the designers involved. They normally assumed about human behaviour rather than finding more about it. The problem would surely be magnified further in our borderless world now when the design is to cater the needs for people of different cultural backgrounds, as the validity in one culture may not be valid in another.
Much of the research findings revealed that humans do react both consciously and unconsciously to the environment, such as in which they live and work, etc. The environments, whether it be natural or man-made, have profound effects on feelings, behaviors, general health, and work productivity. By looking at situations holistically and taking biological, social and environmental factors into account, then only can particular behaviours be understood. The goal of the Environment- Behaviour studies field is to seek solutions towards problems involving human-environmental interactions and to create, manage, protect, and restore environments that promote proper behavior for a better quality of life.
Status of Environment-Behaviour Studies and Prospects in Malaysia
In Malaysia, there seemed to be a lack in local literatures - thus interests, in the Environment-Behaviour field of studies prior to 2000. In fact, while specific postgraduate programs in the field of Environment-Behaviour Studies have been offered in the UK and USA since almost 40 years ago, to date, none of such programs have been offered by any of our local universities. It has been reported that current enrolments for such programs are high in North America, in anticipation of a high demand for such profession in the next decade.
Locally, with the nation spearheading to become a developed nation with society expecting better quality in the environments (natural or built), graduates of such programs have the better edge in being employed as designers in the practices of architecture, interior architecture, landscape architecture, and urban planning. Opportunities are also bright in local authorities or providers in the private sectors involved in the various environments, such as children’s, community / crime prevention, inclusive (elderly / disabled), healthcare, hospitality, natural / outdoor, natural disaster, residential, retail / services, and workplace, to name just a few.
Status of Environment-Behaviour Studies at UiTM
Researches pertaining to the Environment-Behaviour studies have been conducted at UiTM since 2000, under the Department of Architecture’s Special-Interest-Group (SIG), known as the Human Spatial Behaviour Unit (HSBU). Over the years HSBU had attracted interest and attention from staff members from the other Departments in the Faculty. As such, the unit’s status was elevated to the SIG of the Faculty in January 2007 and renamed the Centre of Environmental Psychology Studies (CEPS), FSPU, UiTM. This formed the basis for the establishment of cE-Bs, Centre for Environment-Behaviour Studies.
The cE-Bs was formally established by UiTM on 27th August 2008 and currently located at the Centre for Research and Post-Graduate Studies building, Faculty of Architecture, Planning and Surveying (FSPU) UiTM, in Shah Alam, Selangor. The cE-Bs is linked to the International Association of People-Environment Studies (IAPS), currently based in Dijon, France.