Post-Occupancy Evaluation

Keeran Jugdoyal
Many buildings do not perform as planned, affecting operational costs, staff performance, client satisfaction, and health and safety. Post-occupancy evaluation helps organisations ensure that their buildings meet end-user requirements.

Most organisations are obliged to get maximum value for their investment, and a more efficient, better performing building makes a big contribution. Post-occupancy evaluation (POE) underpins this by obtaining feedback on a building's performance in use.

What is Post Occupancy Evaluation?

POE looks at how owners and users are interacting with the building and how well they are operating it. How well do the building’s technology and building systems function? Potential disconnects can then be identified, and we can focus on why these are happening, what they mean for the building’s owners and users, and how to fix them. 

This concept brings together people and technology. Technology is used to measure the building’s performance. This is combined with qualitative analysis of the building users’ opinions, giving a view of:

  • Impact on productivity (offices), recovery rates (hospitals) or educational outcomes (schools)

  • Energy usage and carbon emissions

  • Comfort and user satisfaction

  • Whole life cost efficiency

  • Impact on other resources such as water and waste

More Organisations Are Now Recognising The Value of POE

POE benefits all construction sectors, especially healthcare, education, offices, retail and housing, where poor building performance will impact on running costs, occupant well-being and business efficiency.

M&S Cheshire Eco-Store

Faithful+Gould has a great example ongoing - an innovative POE for Marks and Spencer’s (M&S) second largest store at Cheshire Oaks near Chester. This is an in-depth study of their most carbon efficient store to date. 

The 12-month project evaluates energy performance and water usage, with a strong focus on the store’s unique features which include a biomass boiler, Hemclad® wall panels, HFC-free refrigeration and an 80,000L rainwater harvesting tank.

The building incorporates passive design features such as earth ducts to keep the building cool in summer and warm in winter, solar shading and natural lighting. The aim was to create a store that is 30% more energy efficient and 35% more carbon efficient than an equivalent M&S store. We’re also collaborating with University College London to undertake soft analysis of the store, to ascertain the effects of sustainable design on customer satisfaction and staff productivity.

Supported by Industry Bodies

POE is the subject of several research studies and initiatives. The M&S Cheshire store is part of an £8m programme funded by the Technology Strategy Board (TSB) designed to help developers deliver more efficient, better performing buildings and to feed back the lessons learned.

POE's progression and credibility are being driven by the support of industry bodies and professional associations. CIBSE has championed POE for some time, predicting that it will become an accepted part of the mainstream around the built environment.

BSRIA highlights the value of POE as part of a ‘soft landings’ approach, based on designers and consultants staying involved with the building and client post-handover.

Public Sector

POE could eventually become mandatory on many government projects. The recent report of The All Party Parliamentary Group for Excellence in the Built Environment, A better deal for public building, calls for POE to be required on all public building projects above a certain value.

Wider Use

Although POEs were initially driven by a need to assess the building’s technology/energy functionality, we are now seeing a growing emphasis on the softer side. M&S at Cheshire Oaks, for instance, is also evaluating its local community engagement programme, to find out how its building process and presence affects people in the surrounding area.

As POE gains traction, we’re finding that it also works really well with repeat programmes. When we harness lessons learned from previous experiences of design, procurement and commissioning of buildings, cost-effectiveness and workplace productivity can be significantly improved. This informs the client’s future strategy.

This is a very powerful way of getting feedback on the successes and failures of a project and evaluating the investment. It leads to better harmony between building owners, users and those who deliver and operate the building.

It’s just one of our cost-efficient services to help clients meet their sustainability and carbon management objectives. POE forms an integral part of our strategic asset management service and also intersects with many of our other service offerings.