The importance of Post-Occupancy Evaluation (POE)
Do buildings designed for high performance function as intended? Do energy savings, improved occupants’ productivity and comfort materialize as promised? Green buildings offer a lot of benefits, but building owners and tenants increasingly want proof that these benefits are actually achieved.
This is where post-occupancy evaluation (POE) comes in. The objective of POE is to learn whether the building is performing as designed and whether it meets the occupants’ needs as intended.
POE originated in the 1960s, as a part of a movement to apply scientific approach to architecture and to explore the new-found connection between behavioral sciences and design. Designers saw POE as a tool to test their hypotheses as they tried to use design to change people’s behavior and relationship with the built environment. It was used to evaluate building systems as well as occupants’ responses to those systems. After the peak of popularity in the 1970s and early ’80s, the use of POE declined, until the sustainability movement reclaimed it. Today, building owners rather than building designers are driving POE. For a building owner it is one thing to read in a study that green buildings on average perform 25-30% better, or that they command higher rents and occupancy rates, but it is another to be able to verify that their own building does so.
At the same time, growing popularity of building ratings, as well as the increase in local and state disclosure ordinances requiring building owners to publicly disclose actual energy consumption, makes POE almost a necessity.
This means that there will be pressure on building designers to incorporate features that will allow building owners to operate the building to design specifications. Buildings will need to have feedback systems to help facility managers and occupants understand how their choices affect the building’s performance. In this task, “smart” buildings have an enormous potential, as they can use the data they are constantly generating to engage users’ by providing real-time, visually appealing and easy to understand performance feedback via dashboards.
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