Despite the effort that goes into design, architects often remain—sometimes willingly—in the dark about how their buildings serve their occupants. Increasingly, data-driven clients want to verify the design goals of their completed projects.
And, as revealing as a post-occupancy evaluation can be, the pre-occupancy evaluation is equally as critical. Documenting the “before” state of an environment provides a solid benchmark from which to calculate the impact of the design. Otherwise, says Mardelle Shepley, FAIA, a professor and chair of the department of design and environmental analysis at Cornell University, “you cannot determine if a transition has been made.”
While experience, best practices, and intuition continue to guide design decisions, and surveys, observations, and building monitoring data inform occupancy evaluations, architects can now leverage technology to collect user feedback and performance metrics en masse, analyze the information, and distill the results, improving the entire process of design.
Tech for Every Project
With recent advancements made in computing, data-seeking firms now have ready access to apps and machine learning tools.
Global firm IA Interior Architects and Portland, Ore.–based ZGF Architects have each developed custom iPad apps for the pre-occupancy evaluation process. IA’s tool, called IA Survey, lists pre-determined variables—for example, the number of occupants in the room, whether they’re working solo or collaborating, and if they are sitting, standing, or working with a physical object at a table, such as a computer—for observers to quickly enter data, snap pictures, and take notes.