The trouble with Post-Occupancy Evaluation


Most studies into the performance of buildings take the form of structured post-occupancy evaluation (POE) investigations.  Usually they concentrate on the evaluation of technical performance issues such as the effectiveness of the heating, daylight, acoustics, energy use and overall occupant comfort.  Normally a survey of occupants to elicit views on building perception will also be included.

Predictably, where these studies find failures researchers stand on presentation podiums to cite poor construction information, design inadequacies or "tail wagging dog" controls complexity as the root causes.  Alas, this information does little to excite the enthusiasm of owners or occupiers towards wanting to do POEs in the first place, let alone follow-up on the improvement of the building or it's performance.  Indeed most POE findings being technical in nature go completely over users heads, and only serve to the frustration with the industry.  

Critical research of the now almost standard approaches to POE have highlighted that most methods overlook the fact that users require a different value proposition than that typically on offer from the industry.  It is apparent that at the interfaces between buildings and users, there are complex sociological, even psychological and cultural, as well as technical issues at play, none of which are being successfully addressed by modern building feedback methodologies. If POE is to be of benefit it needs to research the things users want to know about, which are invariably social and operational rather than technical and procedural.

A starting place in the search for more user-centric outcomes might be to look at how other industries have addressed similar problems, and how by using similar design and review feedback techniques to them, the property industry might replicate their success in meeting users’ needs to hit the defined “performance sweet spot” with certainty.