Marcel J. Harmon, a licensed professional engineer and anthropologist, received his Ph.D. in Anthropology from the University of New Mexico. He currently co-leads the Research & Development team at BranchPattern, a building consultancy dedicated to improving life through better built environments. The primary mission of the team is to provide a research/evidence-based approach for aligning design intent with occupant and organizational needs. Over the years Marcel’s academic and professional focus have included applications of evolutionary theory to understanding past and contemporary societies and the reciprocal relationships between people and their built environments. In his current role, Marcel leads research projects designed to provide insights relative to specific client questions. He engages building occupants, gathering their stories and personal narratives, to ensure that projects better account for occupant’s wants and needs. He also quantifies the built environment’s impact on occupant productivity/performance and health, as well as the occupant’s impact on building performance. Marcel uses this understanding to inform on the process from early programming through post occupancy evaluations, and encourage longer term, prosocial decision making during the design/construction process.
The architecture, engineering, and construction (AEC) industry has the ability to mindfully orchestrate the direction our built environments push us with regards to climate change, occupant wellbeing, and the evolution of life on this planet. But it requires we construct our “niches” in a manner that consistently provides environments aligned with our individual and group level needs, including long term needs associated with social stability and environmental sustainability.
Through a cultural multilevel selection perspective, seeing an individual “other” as human can shift the level of selection from within subgroups at a lower level to between groups at a higher level.
Creating a truly functional, equitable, stable and sustainable nation certainly won’t be easy but a “blueprint,” can be found in our evolutionary past. What will it take? Those with the most power recognizing the realities of white supremacy, finding what’s needed to upscale this blueprint, and having the courage and vision to do so.
Human behaviors, the physical objects we create and use, as well as their associated intellectual traditions are part of our collective toolkit for adapting to the larger social/cultural and physical environments we live within.
Collective and sustainable behavior is partially dependent on maintaining higher levels of cooperation among those involved, from the boardroom to the global stage.