Researchers Honor NYU-Poly Environmental Psychologist for Work on Prison Design and More

For more than three decades, Rich Wener, a professor at the Polytechnic Institute of New York University (NYU-Poly), has conducted research into the environmental psychology of correctional facilities. His findings have significantly furthered our ability to build more humane, just, and functional institutions, and his book, The Environmental Psychology of Prisons and Jails: Creating Humane Spaces in Secure Settings, is considered the seminal work on the topic.

For that and other accomplishments, the Environmental Design Research Association (EDRA) honored him with the 2013 Career Award, in recognition of substantial contributions to the discipline of environment and behavior research.

“The EDRA Career Award is the highest honor in the field of environment-design research in North America,” said Kristen Day, chair of NYU-Poly’s Department of Technology, Culture and Society. “We are enormously proud that Professor Rich Wener has been selected for this recognition.  This award acknowledges Professor Wener's significant contributions to the field, including his international leadership in research on the humane design of prisons and jails, his leadership in the field of post-occupancy evaluation and programming, his role in generating new knowledge about the qualities of great urban places, and his numerous and important contributions to environment-design research. Professor Wener has inspired thousands of engineering students by introducing them to the importance of considering the human experience in the design of new products and places."

Post-occupancy evaluation (POE) describes the process by which designers can determine how well buildings match users' needs and identify ways to improve occupant satisfaction. Describing its importance, Wener said: “Buildings don’t have a meter somewhere that will automatically tell us whether those living or working there are unstressed, comfortable, and able to find enough privacy, or adjust the temperature easily. POEs measure those factors, along with many others, and allow for true evidence-based design.”

Wener teaches in the Department of Technology, Culture and Society at NYU-Poly. His EDRA award citation states: “As an environmental psychologist in an engineering institute, Dr. Wener is an everyday ambassador for environmental design research. He works on research teams that include public health professionals, engineers, urban planners, and many others, and accomplishes the same ‘boundary crossing’ in his teaching. In his courses, Dr. Wener convinces engineering students of the importance of considering humans in the environments and systems they will create.” The citation also recognized his research on the causes of commuter stress.

Wener co-directs NYU-Poly’s Sustainable Urban Environments program, is a fellow and former president of Division 34 of the American Psychological Association, and in 2010 was a Fulbright fellow at the Vienna University of Technology.

Wener said, “I have been honored to be a member of EDRA since 1976 and am intensely gratified to receive a Career Award from my colleagues and peers, whom I respect so much. I am proud to be part of an organization concerned with making the lives of all people—especially the most disenfranchised--better and healthier.”

EDRA is an international, interdisciplinary organization founded in 1968 by design professionals, social scientists, students, educators, and facility managers. It advances and disseminates environmental design research, thereby improving understanding of the inter-relationships of people with their built and natural surroundings and working toward the creation and curation of environments responsive to human needs. The award was presented at EDRA’s annual meeting in Rhode Island.