Post occupancy evaluation - setting the standard

Date: 09 May 2016

Evidence Space recently brought a panel of experts together to debate the potential of evidence based design (EBD).

Up for discussion was its ability to help create spaces that offer truly tangible benefits to their occupiers by transforming the way we design, construct and maintain buildings in the future.

The panellists, who were joined by an audience of industry professionals, were: 

  • Dr Giuseppe Lacanna, Chalmers University of Technology 
  • Dr Michael Phiri, University of Sheffield
  • Dr Kerstin Sailor, University College London 
  • Richard Mazuch, director of design research and innovation at IBI Nightingale
  • Monica Parker, founder of HATCH

Gathering evidence 
One of the most debated questions of the evening was around the issue of post occupancy evaluation (POE), and the lack of an agreed standard for capturing this data. 

Although the idea of POE has been around for nearly 40 years, an industry benchmark is yet to be established. As the panel explained, this is largely due to organisations’ reluctance to provide the level of data required in order to accurately analyse a building’s performance. 

What’s more, providing information to be used for POE is often an afterthought. Take, for example, healthcare. The immediate concern of the people who work there is to make others better – everything else is incidental. 

As such, it may be that there is a vast amount of anecdotal evidence that isn’t being shared, as it simply isn’t seen as being relevant. Only when the time is taken to educate those within specific environments about the importance of these narratives, and truly dig down into their day-to-day experiences and learnings, can the pieces of the puzzle be put together. 

Setting the standard 
To complicate the issue even further, the concept of POE is not as straightforward as it appears. Unlike energy efficiency, for example, there aren’t set elements to measure against. What the industry needs to know about – the experience of occupants – is much harder to gather data on and mean the social aspects of a building, which vary depending on how the space is being used, must also be considered. 

Concluding, the panel agreed that if the construction industry is to pioneer a POE standard, it must be one that will result in positive changes for building users and provide access to the kind of meaningful data that will benefit building construction and design in the future. 

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