Perkins+Will's Janice Barnes covers the four steps that designers should take to create POEs that provide design direction and measure design effectiveness.
Illustration: courtesy P+W
Measure once, cut twice. Wait, that’s not quite right—but that’s exactly what happens when post-occupancy evaluations fail to include pre-occupancy measures.
Post-occupancy evaluations without a pre-occupancy baseline are simply giving feedback about what’s happening in the moment. They’re not measuring results in a comprehensive way.
Here are the four key steps that a designer should take to create effective evaluations that both provide design direction and measure design effectiveness. After all, aren’t we really hoping to measure twice, cut once?
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 to the side.
2. Don’t reinvent the wheel every time. 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. If you work in K–12, for example, consider the issues that consistently arise in that typology (educating staff about systems operations, say) and build necessary research into the process.
4. Get the protocol evaluated. Perkins+Will established its standardized PPOE and then vetted it through a research university. What you want is something that is rigorous and replicable. From there, you can scale the service up or down depending on budget, so maybe it’s two focus groups instead of 20.
Also, remember to keep your tools varied. Go beyond a survey, which only gives you a limited snapshot. We employ numerous tactics, including talking to building maintenance staff, doormen, etc. These are the people who always know what’s really going on in the building.
About the Author
As Principal and Global Discipline Leader for Planning and Strategies, Janice Barnes focuses on the ways in which planning enables clients to meet their business goals. Her work keys on eliciting information on work practices and organizing this information to help clients make better decisions. More posts by Barnes.