Thursday, October 23, 2014

Measure What Matters

The attached article, Return Policy, in Architect Magazine, is a reminder that learning design organizations need to measure what matters to them.  If what matters is high performance buildings and spaces that foster the performance of users, then as the article highlights, a post-occupancy evaluation can be an effective technique to measure that performance.

Citing best practice recommendations from three design firms, the article lays out both methods and strategies focused on revisiting the spaces that you have designed and built.  Janice Barnes from Perkins and Will sets out a perspective on bringing post-occupancy into a design practice. She offers four key steps a designer should take to create effective evaluations that both provide design direction and measure design effectiveness.

1.  Make sure it's a priority.  Does your firm have a mindset that this is important?  Because if not, it will always be pushed aside.

2.  Don't reinvent the wheel.  Invest once in developing a consistent protocol that includes a diverse set of tools for research and evaluation, such as focus groups, interviews, surveys and on-site visits.

3.  Refine your standard protocol for specific industries.  Consider the issues that consistently arise in that typology and build the necessary research into the process.

4.  Get the protocol evaluated.  Perkins and Will established their standardized PPOE and then vetted it through a research university.

Barnes offers a further insight that the key to successful post-occupancy evaluation is actually the pre-occupancy research.

'In order for the (POE) data that you're collecting to give you valid results, you have to first measure the problem you're solving, then design to solve that problem, and finally see if you solved it.  It's collected data pre- and post-occupancy.  That's why (at our firm) we call it PPOE instead of POE.'

While there are a number of factors that may make it complicated to integrate POE's into practice, the benefits to clients and design firms are becoming more clear.  In order for our practice to grow and learn, no matter what POE method is used, designers need to know how well their design solutions are addressing the challenges they have set out to solve for and with their clients.

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