Feature Article

Post-Occupancy Evaluation: Learning from Experience with Green Buildings

In the process of designing a large open-plan office building for a corporate client, Gensler’s designers suggested taking a look at a smaller project they recently completed for the same client. In the earlier project, they found that partially closed-in “teaming areas” they had created in the corners were rarely used because they didn’t offer enough acoustical separation. Similarly, the office staff disliked the clutter and noise created by copy machines in the open plan. Based on this post-occupancy evaluation, the design for the new space changed course considerably. “We learned that we needed to balance the open plan with closed spaces,” says Tamar Moy, of the Gensler NY Consulting Group.

A post-occupancy evaluation of the C. K. Choi Building in Vancouver is helping the University of British Columbia create even better buildings in the future.

Photo: Alex Wilson
The University of Minnesota’s Center for Sustainable Building Research used post-occupancy evaluation (POE) techniques to evaluate the success of sustainable design efforts at several state agencies. According to John Carmody of the Center, researchers found that too much glare is a common problem when excessive daylighting is provided to a space without enough design for shading and light transition, especially if computers are in use. Occupants not only install blinds but they sometimes cover windows with cardboard (see photo below) or even use umbrellas over their desks. The good news is that, thanks to a proactive stance by these agencies, it may be possible to avoid the problem in future projects.

“The sad fact is that hardly any architectural or engineering design practices consistently collect information on whether or not their buildings work, and none make the information available in the public domain,” wrote the authors of the Probe Studies, a series of building-performance evaluations commissioned by the

Building Services Journal in the U.K. and executed between 1995 and 1999. “All this despite clear evidence that managed feedback produces better buildings.”

Published September 1, 2003