We have just completed a fascinating piece of research focused on post-occupancy evaluation in European architecture in collaboration with the University of Reading and the Architects Council of Europe. This project builds on a previous study we completed a couple of years ago for the Royal Institute of British Architects that can be found here.
The research was based on interviews with 20 practicing architects to understand how they approach project evaluation in their work, how they embed evaluation and learning within their business, and the wider cultural and institutional barriers that stand in the way.
The results from this research show that against the odds building evaluation is happening, and that it can be undertaken by practices of all sizes. It shows that the methods applied include a focus on energy use and performance as a basic minimum, but that most are interested in moving beyond energy performance to embrace a wider range of measures. These include studies that focus on:
- the role of the behavior of people and organisations on energy use;
- the contribution a building makes to local environmental quality and bio-diversity;
- the role building design can play in changing cultures in the supply chain, for example through cradle-to-cradle approaches to modern construction;
- the impact of internal environmental quality on occupants happiness, health and productivity;
- the value building design can bring to encouraging social interactions; and
- the impact of participatory approaches to building design on enabling sustainable lifestyles, and building community resilience through local food production, cultural events, and employment opportunities.
There are of course a set of barriers that continue to get in the way of evaluation becoming the norm in architecture practice. These include:
- a lack of institutional support – either through funding or legislation – to support building evaluation;
- the dearth of training in research and evaluation methods in architecture, and the lack of academic support for practice-based research and post-occupancy evaluation methods;
- the business of architecture which is often project focused and does not tend to generate surpluses to invest in R&D activities.
A set of case studies and guidance on accessible evaluation methods for architects will be published later in the year.