|M.Sc Student||Iris Baz|
|Subject||The Influence of Spatial Legibility on Evacuation Wayfinding|
Strategies in Public Buildings in Emergency
|Department||Department of Architecture and Town Planning||Supervisors||Dr. Fisher Gewirtzm Dafna|
|Professor Parush Avi|
|Full Thesis text - in Hebrew|
The amount of time it takes for a person to evacuate from a building in an emergency is critical. A person who finds himself in such a situation must immediately identify his position, where the nearest exits are and how they can be reached as quickly as possible. The structure itself must be planned and prepared for these kinds of scenarios. This is even more critical when it comes to a continuous dynamic state, like fire, in which paths and exits are blocked during the event. In such a situation, a person must calculate the wayfinding options in front of him, several times along the way.
This research tracks the wayfinding strategies in public buildings during an emergency, by examining the decision-making considerations of a sample of participants in an experiment which simulated a situation in which they were asked to evacuate quickly from a public building in an emergency in form of a fire.
The main objective of the study was to formulate a set of guidelines that will help architects in creating legible environments and adjust spaces to users in the most effective way when evacuation is needed. In order to reach this goal, the question that was asked was: How does spatial legibility affects peoples’ wayfinding strategies, during evacuation from public buildings, in an emergency?
A commercial shopping center model was used in two configurations and two modes, using virtual reality technology. One configuration was geometrically simpler, but with a limited field of view, while the second configuration was geometrically more complex, but with a larger field of view. The base for the second configuration relied on the shell of the simpler configuration, but the entire inner layout (number of exits and their locations) was changed. The two modes: the first was of a free movement, when all exits are accessible and free, and in the second, parts of the exits were blocked due to a fire.
The findings of the research were that the properties of an inner layout (the geometry of the configuration, the dimensions of the various inner spaces, eye contact with the outside and the existence of landmarks) are critical in finding one’s way, since the participants relied almost entirely on them. These properties are ultimately translated into the determination of the level of spatial legibility of an inner space, when the aspiration is to reach the level of the easiest legibility possible . More findings, regarding the decision-making and wayfinding planning, were that the fewer environmental cues the participants experienced, and in situations where they couldn’t notice the “Outside”, the more they relied on mental maps, either from past experience navigating the same layout (past rounds of the study experiment), or as a result of familiarity coming from past navigation in similar local spaces in their own life experience. These findings emphasize the importance of legible environments design that rely on environmental cues, as well as the implications of an environment familiarity properties, especially when it comes to the need to evacuation quickly and safely.