Feature Article

Why Post-Occupancy Review Is the Future of Design (And How It Can Serve You Now)

A radical new paradigm is on the way for engaging with projects after they’re “completed”—and clients couldn’t be happier.

June 1, 2015

Watching occupants use building systems and features can change how you design—and it can also change your life. Here, students at the Bertschi School test the rainwater that is treated in their LBC-certified classroom.

Photo courtesy Stacy Smedley, Skanska USA
A Harvard researcher carrying a sample through a brand new high-performance lab hip-checks a button on the wall and hurriedly walks through a sliding door. Realizing she’s forgotten something, the researcher abruptly turns around—and walks smack into the glass. Apparently this happens a lot.

Has the IQ of Harvard researchers dropped in the last couple years? No—unless it’s from having their brains addled by walking into self-closing doors. The problem was the timing of the door, not the people using it, suggests Andrea Love, AIA, building science director at Payette and the architect who witnessed this scene of lab slapstick during a post-occupancy review. “There was a very easy adjustment. You just change the setting so it’s open longer.”

Maybe you’re thinking it isn’t a designer’s job to be on the spot to make that kind of adjustment. If so, you’re not alone: that is how the industry has worked for a long time. But you need to rethink that assumption, according to a growing movement of design professionals focused on ensuring that buildings in use actually achieve their design intent. Right down to the little things, like door timers.