Post Occupancy Evaluation

The built environment sector is in the midst of a shift. Conversations are growing around wellness and the climate crisis leading to a greater focus on building design and building operation.

 

With proposed changes to the London Plan Energy Hierarchy to include a “Be Seen” element for operation energy use and the increasing focus on wellness and healthy buildings, occupants are becoming more knowledgeable about how a building is operating and whether it is performing well.  Inevitably, this is leading to a need for a greater understanding of how buildings are actually performing in-use.

Traditionally, building designers involvement finishes at the handover of a building and yet it is often the operational stage of the buildings life cycle that can result in the most invaluable lessons. It is this stage where a Post Occupancy Evaluation would be undertaken. Post Occupancy Evaluation (POE) is the process of gathering and evaluating data and unmediated feedback about the building in-use from the perspective of the people who use and maintain it.

So why carry out a POE?

Firstly, it is important to understand that the outcome of a Post Occupancy Evaluation can only be seen as positive. Either the building is operating as intended and its design can be repeated on future buildings, or if areas are not meeting expectations or targets, they will be identified and can be rectified.

When carrying out a POE there are typically two evaluation approaches:

‘Soft’ Evaluation – such as building user surveys; focus groups to understand how the space works for its occupants.
‘Hard’ Evaluation – such as BMS/ sub-meter data analysis looking at building services systems and energy consumption.

By looking at both types of evaluation a wide range of data can be analysed and therefore result in a wide range of benefits. The ‘Hard’ POE could be used for the “Be Seen” element of the New London Plan – whereby developments need to consistently monitor energy use. This ‘Hard’ evaluation can identify value for money and cost effectiveness of measures as well as identify potential for energy and water savings. The ‘Soft’ evaluation can help improve staff wellbeing and productivity by understanding what contributes to their positive experience of the working environment. Together these techniques can result in lessons learned and transferable knowledge for future developments, refurbishments and other building projects.

Whilst policy is changing and there is a greater requirement for measuring operational energy use through regulation such as Energy Savings Opportunity Scheme (ESOS), it is important to address one of the main concerns with regards to POE – cost. Although there is an initial upfront cost to undertake a POE, over the long-term when a POE is well implemented, and the results followed the benefits could be huge and far outweigh the initial costs.

In order to design sustainable buildings, we need to fully understand the effectiveness of design strategies as well as ensure occupants and facilities managers are happy within spaces. All buildings are different and have different occupants with different needs, and therefore whilst design strategies can be replicated, in practice they may perform differently. Having greater knowledge of buildings in operation through Post Occupancy Evaluation can help ensure the correct strategies are replicated where appropriate whilst also ensuring lessons are learnt.

If you would like to learn more about undertaking a Post Occupancy Evaluation on your building please click here to send us an email or give us a call on 0203 544 5400 and ask for Imogen.