This peer-reviewed paper consolidates lessons from 20 years of post-occupancy surveys
Post-occupancy evaluation (POE) serves an important role in
collecting occupant insights on the performance of a building, understanding
flaws, and establishing ways to improve the indoor environment. Lindsay T. Graham,
Thomas Parkinson and Stefano Schiavon’s recent Buildings & Cities
research paper LESSONS LEARNED FROM 20 YEARS OF CBE’S OCCUPANT SURVEY analyses
20 years of data to evaluate the structure and benchmarking metrics of the University
of California Berkeley Center for the Built Environment’s (CBE) Occupant
Survey. Using data from over 90,000 respondents from approximately 900
buildings, they reassess whether occupant surveys are evaluating all they need
to, especially following the transformation that workspaces have experienced in
the last two decades.
The general occupant survey structure includes:
Using correlation analysis, Principal Component Analysis and Hierarchical Clustering Analysis, the authors explore: the distribution of participant responses across several Indoor Environmental Quality (IEQ) factors; the structure and measurement properties of the survey; and how benchmarking metrics align with the tool’s underlying structure.
Over the entire survey database, the authors find that roughly two thirds of respondents are satisfied with their workspace. Occupants are most satisfied with spaces’ ease of interaction, amount of light, and space cleanliness; they are most dissatisfied with sound privacy, temperature, and noise level. In addition to aggregating findings, the authors use their analysis to reflect on the wider practice of POE and make recommendations for developing occupant surveys.
With regard to the survey structure, the authors make a case for streamlining questions. At present individual IEQ factors each have an associated question about whether they enhance or interfere with occupants’ ability to complete their job. Instead, they suggest that it should be possible to have just one item that assesses the impact of the space overall on occupants’ ability to complete tasks. In addition, the authors’ correlation analysis suggests that multiple items around an IEQ theme are not always needed.
Crucially, the authors note that the occupant survey focuses on the problems and limitations within a space, rather than what is working well. They highlight that the survey offers an opportunity for insight into the successful elements of a design and suggest adding questions to capture this. Alongside this, questions that address occupant expectations of the space could be added to help understand the way space impacts emotions and could support occupants to achieve their tasks.
Cross-pollination between building science and social and health sciences could be especially fruitful. Specifically, they suggest incorporating well-developed and tested variables for stress, wellbeing and personality elements. This could be particularly fruitful for monitoring how comfortable people are in workspaces following the Covid-19 pandemic.
The use of workspaces is changing, particularly an increasing prevalence of agile work spaces. POE approaches need to adapt to this. The authors suggest generating shorter, experience-focused surveys utilising smartphones and wearable technologies. They also advocate for pairing this with monitoring of occupancy using sensors to gather a more holistic view of the occupant-building relationship.
The analysis presented in this paper is incredibly useful for truly understanding the utility of the tools that are used for monitoring our built environment such that they can be improved. Changes to the CBE Occupant Survey will be made as a result of this work.
Graham, L. T., Parkinson, T., & Schiavon, S. (2021). Lessons learned from 20 years of CBE’s occupant surveys. Buildings and Cities, 2(1), pp. 166–184. DOI: https://doi.org/10.5334/bc.76
Climate action at the neighbourhood scale: Comparing municipal future scenarios
Y Lu, C Girling, N Martino, J Kim, R Kellett & J Salter
Transformational climate actions by cities [editorial]
K R Slater & J B Robinson
Heat stress: adaptation measures in South African informal settlements
J M Hugo
The urban expansion of Berlin, 1862–1900: Hobrecht’s Plan
Common sources of occupant dissatisfaction with workspace environments in 600 office buildings
T Parkinson, S Schiavon, J Kim & G Betti
Collapse and Catastrophe: The Need to Protect Inhabitants
In light of the recent earthquakes in Turkey and Syria, David Oswald and Trivess Moore (RMIT University) reflect on the rights that inhabitants have for buildings to be safe, healthy, comfortable and robust. However, serial and various failings in the construction supply side and its oversight by governments mean greater accountability is needed.
Blind Spots in Energy Policy
As a policy practitioner who leads a national organisation representing households and small businesses in shaping the future of Australia’s energy system, Lynne Gallagher (Energy Consumers Australia) responds to the Buildings & Cities special issue, Energy, Emerging Technologies and Gender in Homes. Insights from lived experience reveal blind spots in the design, provision and use of smart tech that adversely affect energy outcomes.