Cutting Edge Research into ‘Buildings in Use’
by Lisa Ann Pasquale
In the sustainability field, topical research is focused around qualitative and quantitative “in use” research. Commonly called post-occupancy evaluation, the thread of query is trying to determine how well the built environment suits the needs of the end users and to verify design assumptions post-construction.
Architype, an Architectural practice run by Bob Hayes (AA Dip) and Jonathan Hines has been progressing this agenda of in-use research by conducting extensive post-occupancy evaluations of their buildings as part of a TSB-funded project with Lisa Pasquale (AA SED) of Oxford Brookes University’s Low Carbon Building Unit. The goal of the research is to develop guidance and design methods to aid Architype in delivering buildings that are reliably more usable, comfortable, healthy, and energy efficient.
St Luke’s Primary School: A Case study
St Lukes C of E Aided Primary School is one of the primary case studies for the project and was recently nominated for the RIBA Sorrell Foundation Schools Award. By observing how the building is performing while being used, and combining handover and post-occupancy evaluation techniques, the research has aided the occupants in settling into the building and brought feedback to the design team.
The buildings energy use is monitored using a website that helps users track their meter readings, giving them immediate, graphical feedback on energy performance. The website includes algorithms which predict annual usage from just a few weeks data and which corrects the analysis of the data for local weather conditions (called heating degree day analysis) to ensure that colder weeks, when the building would naturally demand more heat, aren’t reported as poorer-performing than warmer weeks. This has been integrated into the pupils routine by training the student council to input the meter readings as part of their other green school initiatives, and allows designers to remotely monitor the buildings performance.
The quality of the internal environment is being measured using several methods. Air quality, as an example, is monitored during the winter season to determine the as-operational ventilation rates in the classroom. This aids in verifying if that the designed rates are achievable and also informs whether typical rates are creating the environment design guidance says they should. Where shortfalls are found, this helps the designers improve the handover of this and future building to better train users as to when and how often to operate natural ventilation devices. This also helps verify and adapt design assumptions to take into account observed variations in behaviour and events not otherwise accounted for during design.
Feedback to the Design Team
The results from these studies are informing Architype’s discourse with their consultants, aiding in understanding appropriate levels of design robustness, identifying knowledge gaps in standard practice and in being able to offer performance-verified solutions to clients’ requirements. With its practical approach to understanding the built environment, post occupancy research is one of the only research practices offering clear paths to higher quality, lower energy buildings.
Lisa Pasquale is an alumnus of the AA Graduate School’s MSc in Sustainable Environmental Design