Taking the stairs: Environmental features that explain why people use stairs in 3 to 4 story academic workplace buildings
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Although increasing stair use among adults with sedentary occupations can provide an accessible means of integrating moderate physical activity within daily work routines, there is little evidence-based information available to guide architects on how to design buildings that promote stair use. This study examined the relationship between stair use and a broad range of features of the physical environment within 10 buildings. Based on a review of the literature, a thematic framework (Appeal, Convenience, Comfort, Legibility and Safety) was developed for identifying the features of buildings that may influence stair use. Three methods of investigation were used to examine the relationship between stair use and variables of the five themes and their constructs. Buildings users were surveyed for their reasons for both single and multi-level route choice. The results indicated that reasons associated with convenience and legibility of route had greater influence on route choice than appeal, comfort or safety. Stair and elevator use were measured in the ten buildings along with variables that operationalized the thematic framework. Regression analysis was utilized to examine the relationship between stair use and the operationalized variables of the thematic framework. The results of regression analysis indicated that stair use was associated with 8 key spatial variables of convenience and legibility (travel distances from stair to nearest entrance and to the elevator; percentage of total building area or total occupant load attributed to each stair; physical accessibility of each stair; area of stair isovist; number of turns from the stair to closest entrance and to the most integrated path). Most local environmental features of stairs such as lighting levels and views were not statistically influential. Multivariate regression analysis indicated that three variables (effective area of each stair, area of stair isovist, and number of turns required between the stair and the most integrated path) explained 53% of stair use. A graphic analysis of the arrangement of the 8 key spatial variables within the ten buildings indicated that buildings with high overall levels of stair use optimized the key spatial variables in respect to the location of stair(s) within the building floor plan.