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  • Q&A: He Wants to Motivate Clients to Invest in the Public Good

    Krister Jens is a civil engineer and one of five Ph.D. fellows at the Copenhagen office. The aim of his Ph.D. is to motivate increased private investment into the public good. The method is to measure human behavioral patterns and link it to special structures. This involves using the tools of economics to analyze urban issues such as health, education, public transit, housing, and local government finance. 

  • What is your professional background and how does it fit with your PhD-project?

    I am a civil engineer in the field of sustainable urban planning and have been working for Rambøll’s Livable Cities Lab in Germany for two years. With a focus on global challenges such as urbanization, resource bottlenecks, climate change and their social as well as economic impact on prosperity and health, I gained certain experience in creating integrated urban solutions on various scales.

    As an industrial Ph.D., I see an opportunity to realize my personal and professional pursuits, namely to bring the best value to the society while extending my knowledge in a front-running area, creating synergies for both research and commerce. The practical proximity of this research project certainly motivates me. It seems clear to me that the question of causalities between humans and their surroundings is amongst the most fundamental when seeking an understanding of our physical world and its influence on social behavior.

    What is the aim of the Ph.D.?

    Clients are calling for evidence-based architectural concepts that can be converted into a value-added proposition for the local community and economy. Nevertheless, architecture is a conservative sector that requires better measures and methods in favor of utilizing these added values. The aim of my Ph.D. project is, therefore, to deploy these added values and make them accessible in the micro-context of any larger urban design. In this context, the project can be seen as a driver for grasping and visualizing the often hidden interdisciplinary potential in the early stages of the design phase.

    Why is it important for a company like Henning Larsen to look into?

    Given the ongoing digital evolution through smartphones and computers, much information about social behavior is still untapped. This represents unexploited potential to create convincing business cases for our clients. I believe that the focus on humans – the main users of buildings – will create coherent solutions that will be beneficial to both Henning Larsen, our clients and the end-users. Creating strong evidence for human-oriented developments is furthermore strengthening the investor’s motivation to engage in architectural design that makes a social contribution to the local environment. 

    What is your experience working in the field of architecture?

    As the personal assistant of Herbert Dreiseitl, the Director of the LCL unit, I worked closely with one of the most rewarded landscape architects. In that sense, I have experience in creating links between urban design and its influences on the local social realm. Furthermore, the sensitivity of soft and hard indicators for human well-being in urban settings is a highly relevant issue which I touched upon both during my studies and work. With a focus on social sustainability on a neighborhood level, my master thesis uncovered practical knowledge about the interdependencies between human/community well-being and the built environment, combining both statistical trends and personal stories to study local contexts and social behavior. Later, during my time as a consultant at Rambøll, I conducted ‘Heart Rate Variability’ -tests on different sites in Udaipur, India. The tests served as a feasibility study and triggered correlations between stress-levels and the built environment, providing important arguments for human-friendly architectural and urban designs.

    In your previous work as a consultant, you have been representing the interests of the client, how can this contribute to your project?

    Understanding the client’s approach and mindset is at the heart of any project. Knowing both sides of the coin will create a stronger focus, triggering better chances for us to open up new markets. In relation to the Ph.D. project, I believe that my previous consultancy work opened up a broader understanding of the different involved perspectives on this project. I believe that this will create a stronger link between research and reality. I believe that in-house research is increasingly recognized among Scandinavian architecture firms. The benefits of doing in-house research at Henning Larsen, rather than relying on outsourced research, is that we can tailor our research to the market’s needs. It furthermore includes a better understanding of crucial factors that contribute to successful projects in the future.

    Around the office we hear you talk in both Danish, German, and English why is that?

    When my parents were faced with the decision on which school they should bring me to, they chose the Danish school system over the German, because it had an excellent reputation and the children would not only grow up bilingual, but they would also have an intercultural understanding. In this way, I got a part of the Danish minority in Germany without having any family relations to Denmark.