Current and Past Research

Current Research

The lab has partnered with a number of local and international organizations to complete projects that optimize the inclusion of building occupants’, and community members’, attitudes and behaviors in the design cycle.

British Columbia Forestry Innovation Investment (BCFII) 

BCFII and the EPRL have entered into a research agreement to work with a graphic design student from BCIT on a project that seeks to understand more about how office workers perceive the amount (and location) of wood materials in office environments. The first phase of this project uses the survey method via an online platform using simulated office settings—it has been funded by BCFII until the end of the 2022-23 fiscal year. The second phase of the work will involve a separate contract with BCFII for 2023-24 to integrate initial results with the collection of eye-tracking data, along with other physiological measures, as participates are exposed to the same simulated images of offices with varying amounts of wood features. Two technical reports and a scholarly paper will be produced from this research—the first report was submitted to BCFII in March, 2023:

McCunn, L. J. (2023). Understanding Psychosocial Impressions of Wood Materials in Simulated Office Interiors. Interim technical report for BC Forestry Innovation Investment. 

The City of Nanaimo and BCSEA

The EPRL has partnered with the City of Nanaimo and with the BC Sustainable Energy Association (BCSEA) to understand the extent to which parents of children who participate in BCSEA's Cool-It Climate Leadership Training Challenge perceive that household pro-environmental behaviours have been affected by the take-home program. We asked parents and caregivers of children in grades enrolled in the program whether they perceived any alterations in pro-environmental behaviour at home retrospectively, a few weeks after the program has ended. This data will serve as a way for BCSEA to evaluate their program and optimize it for both kids and parents over time. 

A student RA from the lab has been generously funded by the City of Nanaimo to analyze data from the mixed-methods questionnaire. Data collection occurred in early 2023 and a technical report to the City and to BCSEA was provided in May of that year:

McCunn, L. J., & Brackett, A. (2023). Measuring the pro-environmental behaviours of parents and caregivers whose children participated in the Cool-It Climate Leadership Training Challenge. Technical report for the City of Nanaimo, the BC Sustainable Energy Association.

The University of Calgary

We are working with Dr. Giuseppe Iaria and other cognitive neuroscientists in the University of Calgary's NeuroLab on a project titled "The Effects of Microgravity on Wayfinding, Sense of Place, and Environmental Familiarity in the International Space Station as experienced in Virtual Reality." In brief, this study has allowed us to develop a virtual reality version of the ISS to investigate the effects of microgravity on the ability to orient and navigate by means of cognitive maps, the development of sense of place, as well as the development of environmental familiarity. 

Dr. McCunn has received one of VIU's Time awards to focus on statistical analyses for the first of three related studies within this project. This will be done after pilot data has been collected at U of C during the spring and summer of 2023. She has also won one of VIU's Explore awards to support this research. At the U of C, the team hired a computer science graduate student through MITACS to contribute to the research and engage other disciplines at the intersection of environmental psychology and neuroscience—especially in the context of isolated and confined environments. 

Our first presentation about the project's concept was undertaken by NeuroLab students at the Canadian Space Health Research Network's 2022 symposium held at the University of Calgary in 2022:

Berger, L., Walsh, M., Banerjee, R., Banik, S., Burles, F., McCunn, L., & Iaria, G. (November, 2022). Investigating Wayfinding, Sense of Place, and Environmental Familiarity in the International Space Station as Experienced in Virtual Reality. Poster presented at the Canadian Space Health Research Symposium, Calgary, Alberta.

BC Corrections and the Nanaimo Correctional Centre

With approval from BC Corrections, the lab has begun collecting data for a project that asks employees working at the existing Nanaimo Correctional Centre about a number of psychosocial constructs, as well as their appraisals of the facility's design so that, after a new facility (Nanaimo News Bulletin: Province announces $157-million project to replace Nanaimo Correctional Centre) has been constructed and used for a period of time, we can statistically compare attitudinal and behavioural changes (as well as evaluate successes and limitations of the design). We received an Engage grant from VIU for this project in 2019 and have performed the pre-design study that will be used to compare data at the post-occupancy evaluation stage in 2026-27. We have delivered a technical report to NCC on the results of the pre-design study and await the completion of the new facility to continue our research with staff. 

McCunn, L. J., & Lewis, T. (2020). Programming a Sustainable and Culturally-sensitive Correctional Facility: Designing for Success from the Perspective of Staff. Pre-design research report prepared for BC Corrections and the Nanaimo Correctional Centre.

Island Health

In 2018, our team received two Collaborative Research grants from VIHA's Research and Capacity Building Department to complete projects with Island Health staff working in the Nanaimo Regional General Hospital and in the Royal Jubilee Hospital in Victoria, BC. Using different methods and variables, both projects investigated the extent to which recent sustainable design alterations to parts of each hospital (e.g., biophilic mural instalments; circadian lighting programmes) affect staff experiences at work.

The results of these projects have been recently published:

McCunn, L. J., & Wright, J. (2019). Hospital employees’ perceptions of circadian lighting: A pharmacy department case study. Journal of Facilities Management. 

McCunn, L. J., & Frey, C. (2020). Impacts of large-scale interior murals on hospital employees: A pharmacy department case study. Journal of Facilities Management, 18, 53-70. 

The work has also been presented at the Canadian Psychological Association's annual Convention in 2019. 

McCunn, L. J., & Wright, J. (May, 2019). Impacts of Circadian Lighting and Interior Murals on Hospital Employees: A Pharmacy Department Case Study. Presented at the annual convention of the Canadian Psychological Association, Halifax, NS.

The lab is now working with Island Health to measure employees baseline satisfaction with a number of hospital design attributes in preparation for the construction of the new Cowichan District Hospital in Duncan, BC. This study examines employees' perceptions of sustainable and culturally-response design via pre-design and post-occupancy evaluations. The lab received funding from VIU in the form of an Explore grant and an Innovate grant in 2019. Read VIU's press release: Researcher Investigates Hospital Design Elements to Improve Employee Well-being.

Although we have submitted a technical report to Island Health about the pre-design phase of the study, and presented our results to Island Health (see references below), the research is ongoing until the new facility has been built and used by staff at the post-occupancy stage, estimated to be between 2026-27. 

McCunn, L. J., Sawyer, K., Shorting, T., & Bjornson, A. (2021). Sustainable and Culturally-Responsive Hospital Design: A Case Study of Cowichan District Hospital Employees. Pre-design research report prepared for Island Health.

McCunn, L. J., Sawyer, K., & Shorting, T. (November, 2021). Sustainable and Culturally-Responsive Hospital Design: A Case Study of Cowichan District Hospital Employees. Video conference presentation to Island Health. 

School District 61

The lab won a Research, Scholarly activity, and Curriculum Development grant from VIU to complete a follow-up study concerning teachers’ reactions to the learning commons model in BC secondary schools. Dr. McCunn published results from three initial studies with School District 63 in 2013 and is now continuing this line of inquiry by making design recommendations to transition traditional secondary school libraries to learning commons and measuring how teachers perceive their levels of professional collaboration, productivity, and engagement at work. This most recent research is a pre-post occupancy evaluation of Mt. Douglas Secondary School's learning commons. The final data collection period occurred in the fall of 2022 and a technical report was prepared in the spring of 2023. A scholarly journal article will be submitted within the year. 

McCunn, L. J. (In preparation). Teachers’ Collaborations in Secondary School Learning Commons: Designing for Success. 

McCunn, L. J. (2023). Teachers’ Collaborations in the Mount Douglas Secondary School Learning Commons: Designing for Success. Technical report for School District 61.

McCunn, L. J., & Gifford, R. (2015). Teachers’ reactions to learning commons in secondary schools. Journal of Library Administration, 55, 435-458.

McCunn, L. J. (2017). Surveying teachers’ responses to library design: Lessons from the learning commons model. In SAGE Research Methods Cases: Education.

University of Washington

The lab is working with faculty members and post-doctoral fellows in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of Washington (UW) in Seattle on a series of studies concerning the impacts of LED lighting programs on office employee satisfaction, perceived productivity, and controllability in the UW Tower on campus in Seattle, WA. Some of these projects have been funded by UW’s Green Seed Fund grant program, as well as the National Science Foundation's RAPID grant program, and have been published in peer reviewed journals:

Kim, A., Wang, S., McCunn, L. J., & Bramono, N. T. I. (2022). Occupant trust in indoor air quality in a large office building after an emergent wildfire. Journal of Facilities Management. DOI:

Kim, A., McCunn, L. J., & Lew, J. (2017). Successful facility change management practices for retrofit projects: A case study in lighting. Journal of Management in Engineering, 33, 1-8.

McCunn, L. J., Kim, A., & Lew, J. (2017). Office Workers’ Reactions to a Lighting Retrofit: Exploring Perceptions of Productivity, Controllability, and Affective Organizational Commitment. Journal of Energy Research and Social Science, 37, 154-164.

Kim, A., Wang, S., & McCunn, L. J. (2019). Building value proposition for human-centred lighting systems in the workplace: Combining energy and occupant perspectivesJournal of Building Engineering, 24, 100752. 

Kim, A., Wang, S., & McCunn, L. J., Prozuments, A., Swanson, T., & Lokan, K. (2019). Commissioning the acoustical performance of an open office space following the latest healthy building standard: A case study. Acoustics, 1,473-492. DOI:

Kim, A., Wang, S., McCunn, L. J., & Sadatsafavi, H. (2020). Impact of office modernization on environmental satisfaction: A naturalistic field study. Frontiers in the Built Environment: Sustainable Design and Construction, 6, 58. DOI:

Kim, A., Wang, S., McCunn, L. J., & Bramono, N. T. I. (2022). Occupant trust in indoor air quality in a large office building after an emergent wildfire. Journal of Facilities Management. DOI:

Our work has also been presented at the following conferences:

McCunn, L. J., Kim, A., & Lew, J. (July, 2018). Office building occupants' responses to an advanced human-centered, technology-driven lighting system. Poster presented at the National Institutes of Health in buildings (HiBR) roundtable conference, Bethesda, MD (as HiBR Scholars). 

Kim, A., McCunn, L. J., Wang, S., & Prozuments, A. (January, 2019). Psychoacoustical Research Pertaining to the Healthy Workspaces. Presenting at the International Workshop on Putting Sustainability into Convergence: Connecting Data, People, and Systems, Singapore.

The lab and the team at UW have collaborated on a successful grant application to the National Science Foundation for a RAPID Grant (Award ID: 1852995) to measure building occupants' perceptions of indoor and outdoor air quality during seasons of severe small particulate accumulation from wildfires. This research is currently underway.  

Research Partnership with UWT Criminal Justice Professor and the Washington Corrections Centre for Women 

The lab has been working on a project that surveyed and interviewed staff of the Washington Corrections Centre (WCCW) for Women about corrections of fatigue, work adversity, and their perceptions of a new landscaping project on the WCCW campus since 2017. Spearheaded by Dr Barb Toews, Associate Professor of criminal justice at the University of Washington Tacoma (UWT), we were awarded UW's Royalty Research Fund in 2018. Although the COVID-19 pandemic delayed the project, our protocol has moved online and the research proceeded at the end of 2022. We have delivered technical report to the Washington State Department of Corrections in the spring of 2023, and have submitted a scholarly article for publication in an interdisciplinary journal. 

Toews, B., & McCunn, L. J. (Under review). Understanding Correctional Staff Perceptions of the Work Environment: A Case Study at a Correctional Center for Women.

Toews, B., & McCunn, L. J. (2023). Understanding Correctional Staff Perceptions of the Work Environment: A Case Study at a Correctional Center for Women. Technical report for the Washington State Department of Corrections. 

Past Research

The Canadian Mountain Network

In collaboration with geography and sociology professors at VIU, as well as the Mount Arrowsmith Biosphere Region Research Institute (MABRRI), Dr McCunn and two student lab RAs were responsible for a portion of a project funded by through the Canadian Mountain Network. In 2021, our work received additional funding from the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI) John R. Evans Leaders Fund (in conjunction with the CB Knowledge Development Fund for Minor Research Infrastructure Projects.

Between 2019 and 2022, we examined human relationships with nature in some of BC's mountainous areas, as well as developed focused methods and scales to measure sense of place in these regions.

A technical report for our deliverable has now been given to MABRRI and CMN:

McCunn, L. J., Sawyer, K., Shorting, T., Gagnon, T., & Ferris, E. (2022). Sense of Place and Nature Relatedness in the British Columbia Mount Arrowsmith Biosphere Region. Research report prepared for the Mount Arrowsmith Biosphere Region Research Institute and the Canadian Mountain Network.

A scholarly article has also been published: 

McCunn, L. J., Sawyer, K., & Shorting, T. (2023). Sense of place and nature relatedness in the British Columbia Mount Arrowsmith Biosphere Region. Cities & Health. DOI: 

We have also presented our work to the public, to the CMN, and at scholarly conferences: 

McCunn, L. J. (Accepted). Sense of Place in the British Columbia Mount Arrowsmith Biosphere Region. Scheduled to present at the Environmental Design Research Association, Greenville, SC, USA.

McCunn, L. J. (March, 2022). Advances in Environmental Psychology in Relation to Climate Change and Community. Presented at the annual Science and Technology Lecture Series at Vancouver Island University, Nanaimo, BC.

McCunn, L. J., Sawyer, K., & Shorting, T. (March, 2022). Sense of Place and Nature Relatedness in the British Columbia Mount Arrowsmith Biosphere Region. Video recorded a presentation for the Regional Research, Stewardship, and Citizen Science Open House in Qualicum Beach, BC. 

Shaw, P., McCunn, L. J., & Lafrenière, S. (June, 2021). The View From 2117: Human Actions, Consequences, and Perspectives on Mountain Regions. Presented at the Canadian Mountain Network Knowledge Sharing Summit. **Online because of COVID-19

Designing Justice + Designing Spaces, the James Irvine Foundation, the University of Washington Tacoma and Rutgers University

With generous support from the James Irvine Foundation, the lab teamed up with criminal justice faculty at the University of Washington Tacoma, business faculty at Rutgers University, and a not-for-profit architecture and design organization called Designing Justice + Designing Spaces to evaluate a “pop-up resource village” for its effectiveness in affecting place-making and community engagement in a diverse San Francisco neighbourhood. Interim and final reports have been provided to the funder and results of our portion of the project has been published in the International Journal of Community Well-being. Although we had been accepted to present our findings at the Canadian Psychological Association's annual convention in 2020, because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the convention was cancelled. However, our work has been published in CPA's abstract book and may be chosen for CPA's scientific program in 2021.

McCunn, L. J., Vickerie, L., Gagnon T. (2020). Evaluating a Pop-up Resource Village in West Oakland: Making Connections with Sense of Place and Perceptions of Safety. International Journal of Community Well-being, 1-26. DOI:

McCunn, L. J. & Gagnon, T. (May, 2020). Evaluating a Pop-up Resource Village: Making Connections with Sense of Place and Perceptions of Safety. Scheduled for presentation at the annual convention of the Canadian Psychological Association, Montreal, QC. **Cancelled because of COVID-19.