The term Post-Occupancy Evaluation (POE) was first coined in the 1960s in the United States when building inspectors issued occupancy permits to completed projects when they were fit for use and habitation. Since then, there has not been a great uptake in the property sector, perhaps because people think POE is difficult to do or do not know where to start.
However, POE is now starting to be recognised as a valuable means of understanding how a building is working for those that live and work in it. Poor building performance can impact significantly on carbon footprint, running costs, occupant health and wellbeing and business efficiency. A POE can help to identify teething problems and gaps in building operation understanding and help share lessons for the benefit of other projects, thereby improving our understanding of how buildings are used and operated in practice.
The essence of a POE is measurement – it provides a route to understanding the performance of a building and its impact on occupants. POE, in fact, is not just about measuring the physical traits of a building, but also about measuring and understanding how people feel in a space.
Generally speaking, the building should be occupied for least 6 or even 12 months or more after occupation, as operations may not be properly established and the building will not have operated in all seasons. Also, in an ideal world, building owners and developers should consider both ‘pre’ and post-occupancy evaluation, so that we measure performance and satisfaction before and after a refurbishment or a move from one building to another. This will allow building performance and occupier satisfaction to be benchmarked, and the real role and value of the building to be understood.
Post-occupancy evaluation in BREEAM
As a result of the growing interest in POE, sustainability standards such as BREEAM are now awarding credits to projects that commit to a POE exercise one year after occupation. BREEAM UK New Construction 2018, for example, includes one credit under Man 05 Aftercare (Post-Occupancy Evaluation). There are similar provisions in other BREEAM schemes for refurbishment and international.
Under BREEAM, an independent consultant needs to be employed to provide an extensive and expert POE study to gather in-use performance feedback from users of the building. This should study the design intent and construction process (review design, procurement, construction and handover processes), and collect information from a range of building users. This will embrace design issues and environmental conditions including:
- Internal environment (light, noise, temperature, air quality)
- Control, operation and maintenance
- Facilities and amenities
- Access and layout
- Other relevant issues
The POE should also collect information on the sustainability performance of the building including energy and water consumption, and performance of any sustainability features or technologies. ADW are expert in providing POE studies and make a point of working with the client and occupier to ensure that the information gathered on the building is appropriately disseminated. This is also a requirement of BREEAM, helping to inform changes in user behaviour, building operational processes, procedures and controls.