Post Occupancy Evaluation Q&A: Get to Know Your Building and its Occupants

So much can be learned from the buildings and spaces we inhabit, as well as from the people who utilize them. The value this knowledge can bring is the focus of our post occupancy evaluation team. We use our research and expertise to help you learn more — whether you’re a building owner, facility manager, developer, or other stakeholder interested in the overall health of your buildings, would like to know more to inform upgrades and renovations, or would like to plan for additional design and construction projects.

Our team melds architecture and engineering, specifically as it relates to mechanical and electrical systems, as well as a design perspective that considers space programming and human wellness factors, such as biophilia, daylight, acoustics, and air quality, to inform insights that will help you make the best decisions for your project.

Post occupancy evaluations: What they are and why you might be interested

Q: What is a POE?

A: A post occupancy evaluation — or POE — is a detailed look at how a facility is meeting the original design objectives and operational requirements. It’s also a review of how occupants are using the space and how they feel about it. The POE process offers valuable insight into occupant satisfaction, building operation, and energy consumption.

Q: Why would a client need a POE if the design was done correctly?

A: So many reasons! Design is based on assumptions of human behavior, and the human element can be unpredictable. Occupant surveys, which are part of the POE process, help us understand what people are doing in real life. The survey results can inform operational recommendations on how to best use a space, subtle design alterations, design of subsequent facilities, or eureka moments for the client and design team.

Q: Who might be interested in a POE?

A: People/companies/entities who value research and discovery and want to gain more knowledge about their facilities and the people who use/occupy them. Those who are planning to develop similar types of projects across their portfolio. Those who have a focus on recruitment and retention and want to ensure employee and occupant satisfaction. Those who are pursuing sustainable, healthy building certifications such as LEED and WELL. Those who want confirmation their project was built and is operating the way it was designed. Those interested in knowing more about system performance and recommendations on the latest technologies and best practices to incorporate.

POE is a service we offer clients for whom we’ve done the original design work, as well as new clients who would like a fresh perspective on a project after occupancy.

Q: When would I initiate a POE for my building?

A: It can be built into the RFP process right from the get-go for forward-thinking, repeat clients; or an add-on service post construction; or a completely new contract with a client for which we did not do the original design.

Q: What are the specific strategies used to gain information?

A: There are five primary strategies: 1) Occupant satisfaction surveys — we develop and administer surveys based on a project’s design objectives and occupant groups. 2) In-person interviews — these provide additional depth beyond the surveys to gain a more comprehensive and nuanced understanding of occupant and stakeholder opinions. 3) Building automation system (BAS) analysis — in facilities with a central BAS, a wealth of information can be gained by reviewing trend log data, with recommended actions. 4) Quantitative measurements — where no BAS exists, on-site measurement of actual operating conditions provides quantitative data to substantiate occupant feedback. 5) Utility bill analysis — we establish a building’s Energy Use Intensity (EUI) and compare it to records of similar buildings to gain an understanding of the facility’s energy performance relative to its peers.

With the conclusion of POE research and data gathering, our team analyzes the results and provides a detailed, final report with recommendations to the client. We also have the expertise to assist clients with implementing recommendations, if desired, and closing the loop with full-service capabilities. This added level of service for our repeat, long-term clients has helped deepen our relationships and knowledge, benefiting future design projects. It is also part of our ethos of knowledge-driven design supporting our firm vision: To shape a new world using knowledge and creativity as a means to educate, enlighten, delight, unite, preserve, sustain, and forever improve.​

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Reach out if you’d like to learn more!

Raelynn Meissner

Raelynn is a mechanical engineer in Billings who has been with Cushing Terrell for sixteen years, the last fourteen focused on sustainable design and high-performance buildings. Her experience includes building energy studies and analysis, LEED building certifications, and mechanical design for a variety of systems. Raelynn is one of the founding members of Cushing Terrell’s Green Advocacy Council, a green think tank that continues to move sustainable design forward within the firm. A LEED AP since 2005, she has been involved with 30 LEED project certifications in the years since. Additionally, she is a GBI Guiding Principles Compliance Professional and has worked on projects pursuing smart building strategies, the Living Building Challenge, and net zero energy goals.