Centre of Applied Research Technology

Building for Well-being

How can neuro-architecture be used to create an attractive living environment in a densely populated city?


How can we address the housing shortage while at the same time boosting the well-being of urban residents? This is the question Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences (AUAS) investigates in Building for Well-being, a consortium in which it collaborates with 18 partners (including parties from the professional field). The research is yielding insights that will enable the construction sector to develop evidence-based design solutions for creating an attractive living environment in a city that is rapidly becoming denser.

The housing shortage in the Netherlands is quite severe, particularly in the Randstad conurbation. The Dutch government has promised to deliver 100,000 new homes per year – a target that will need to be met largely within the borders of existing cities. ‘At the same time, plans for new construction face a growing list of requirements. For example, projects must integrate sustainable heating systems, use circular materials and include charging points for electric vehicles,’ says Frank Suurenbroek, professor of Spatial Urban Transformation at AUAS. ‘The trick is to do all of this without losing sight of people’s well-being.’

Perceptions of the urban environment

At present, the aspect of how people experience their environment is already being considered when new neighbourhoods are developed. However, this is currently rarely based on evidence-based knowledge. The Building for Well-being consortium aims to change this by researching how people experience the urban environment, how this affects them and how this can be taken into account in the design process.

Technological research

With the help of advanced biometric technology, including eye-trackers that register what people look at and for how long, measurements are taken for three kinds of users: residents, passers-by and visitors. This is done in a laboratory setting using a screen on which different urban situations are projected, as well as outside with a mobile eye-tracker and in a virtual reality environment based on blueprints designed by architects in the consortium. Nanda Piersma, professor of Responsible IT at AUAS, works with her team to explore how artificial intelligence (AI) can be deployed to scan street view images to look for patterns in design solutions. The goal is to help designers identify characteristics that promote well-being in street spaces.


The research offers insight into which design applications contribute to the well-being of users, when they do so and why. It also yields valuable knowledge about deploying the tested biometric technology and AI in the design process. Designers will be able to use the insights and findings to substantiate their innovative design solutions to their clients. The consortium emphatically promotes dialogue and reflection in the real-world practice of spatial development. Based on this philosophy, an infrastructure for knowledge exchange is being developed through co-research sessions and subject-matter debates aimed at the broader professional field.

18 project partners

The Building for Well-being project involves 18 partners, including AUAS, design firms specialised in architecture, urban planning and landscape design, and sector organisations. There is also a reflection group consisting of spatial-planning clients and leading academics who work on neuro-architecture worldwide. Besides the Spatial Urban Transformation research group, the Responsible IT research group of the AUAS Faculty of Digital Media and Creative Industry is also closely involved with the project.

Spatial Urban Transformation research group

Building for Well-being picks up where an earlier project, Sensing Streetscapes , left off. That project extensively and successfully explored the application of new technologies like AI and eye-tracking in the process of designing buildings and urban areas.

The AUAS Spatial Urban Transformation research group conducts applied research into architecture, urban planning and spatial planning in connection with the current challenges of transforming urban spaces. This research focuses specifically on the relationship between physical-social aspects and sustainability. Each new research project is carried out in cooperation with partners from the field: clients and contractors in the spatial planning sector, such as municipalities, developers, design firms and corporations. Co-creation sessions and learning sessions are a standard part of this cooperation, so that the first lessons and recommended courses of action can be shared with those in the sector while the project is still in progress. The research group also provides lectures, moderation services and publications for professional and academic platforms and journals.

Published by  Centre for Applied Research Technology 5 December 2023

Project Info

Start date 01 Jan 2022
End date 15 Jun 2024