Post-occupancy evaluation supports evidence-based design and improves building performance
By Mike Zorich and Lincoln Pearce
In a traditional healthcare design and construction process, an owner, designer, and contractor may take years working together to define goals, plan, design, and eventually construct a facility that meets the needs of staff and patients. But once the owner occupies the building, the keys are turned over with limited follow–up other than closing out punch list items and conducting a warranty walk–through.
The formerly close group of owner, designer, and contractor then move on to their next project without gaining feedback from the occupants to determine if the building has indeed met the goals of the organization. This is a lost opportunity for the team to gain insight by comparing their planning assumptions with actual building operation, which can be used to fine-tune operations, identify and solve problems, and gather data that each team member can utilize to justify decisions on future projects.
Such post-occupancy evaluation (POE) – occasionally utilized to gain user feedback on key components for operational improvements – recently has become more prevalent due to the benefits associated with evidence-based design. These evaluations are wide-ranging in their scope and can focus on both quantitative and qualitative results. Topics covered may include efficiency of the space, staff and patient perceptions, exam room turnover times, quantity of steps taken by nursing staff per day, or staff turnover.
From an engineering perspective, a POE of building performance can be helpful to ensure the building is operating at its optimum capacity. The evaluation can help owners mitigate risk, identify cost–saving measures, and confirm that building operators have been adequately trained to operate the facility.
In its most basic form, POE should compare design goals and assumptions with actual performance, allow for building adjustments based on feedback and the changing needs of the occupants, and provide evidence and data to justify decision making related to future facility investments.
A successful POE provides owners with a high-performance facility while giving the design team the opportunity to review best practices they can apply to future projects. Specific action items need to be addressed during the planning and pre-design, design and construction, and occupancy phases, such as establishing a core team and outline, commissioning the building systems, and analyzing the acquired data.
Incorporate your POE throughout each phase to ensure you get the most out of your next project.
Energy performance POE checklist
Use the following checklist of actions focusing on energy performance to help your project achieve a successful post-occupancy evaluation.
Planning & Pre-Design
- Establish core POE team members focused on energy performance (owner, facility staff, engineer, commissioning agent, architect, occupants, contractor)
- Determine POE timeline
- Example: Evaluation to occur 12, 18, or 24 months post–owner occupancy
- Define energy performance goals and expected outcomes
- Provide benchmarking material
- Identify the critical data required
- Examples: Electrical consumption (kW), natural gas consumption (therms), energy use intensity / EUI (kBtu/ft2), daylight and lighting levels, acoustical performance, etc.
Design / Construction
- Provide components in the design to measure and collect critical data defined in the planning stages
- Examples: Meters, sensors, trend info, and data storage
- Hold user group meetings with facility staff to review design and control sequences
- Provide post construction commissioning of building systems
Post Occupancy Evaluation
- Conduct an owner survey
- Walk through spaces with facility staff to observe and document perceptions related to equipment operations
- Accumulate data
- Analyze data
- Review the data to determine if projected energy performance is being achieved. If performances are not achieved, the core team should identify the cause for the underperformance and provide recommendations on adjustments that can be made to systems to improve performance
- Report out
- Survey results
- Observation results
- Performance report with accompany data
- Results and recommendations