Speakers and organizers of AIANY COTE’s “It’s Occupied, Now What? Post-Occupancy Client Reengagement.”

It’s Occupied, Now What?

On 09.18.15, the AIANY Committee on the Environment (COTE) gathered together architects Julie Hiromoto, AIA, LEED AP BD+C, associate, Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM); Z Smith, principal and director of Sustainability and Building Performance, Eskew+Dumez+Ripple; Chris Garvin, AIA, LEED AP, managing partner, Terrapin Bright Green; and developer Michael Gubbins, LEED AP, senior vice president, Albanese Organization, to discuss their experiences with post-occupancy evaluation (POE).

Fancy LEED Platinum plaques aside, the real issue is how buildings perform once the architects complete projects and the tenants move in. The practice of POE allows architects, building owners, developers, and tenants to understand what is working and what isn’t. Evaluations can be as simple as comparing real-time utility data to predicted data, or more complex, going further into quality of space, user experience, health outcomes, and more. The data collected allows corrections to be made for user error, mechanical failures, and design flaws in existing buildings as well as leading to better future designs.

Leading questions on this topic include: How do you get the data? How much data can you gather? What is the right data for your purposes? When is the right time to gather the data? How does a firm cover its costs?

SOM conducted a study of 29 large architecture firms to better understand what they were doing and want to be doing, as well as the general state of the market. Hiromoto discussed the results of the study, which can be read in detail here. Two-thirds of the firms surveyed are regularly doing some level of POE, and two of those firms include POE as part of their standard operating practice.

Driving home the point that you cannot blame efficiency failure solely on design error or solely on user error, Smith, skyping in from New Orleans, also discussed his research focused on making better predictive models.

The question of client engagement was addressed by Garvin, whose company, Terrapin, collaborates with organizations to challenge assumptions and develop solutions that lead to improved environmental and financial performance through research, planning, guidelines, and product development. He shared some of the case studies he has worked on, including a Sacramento Utility District Call center, where a POE revealed that there had been a disconnect between the architect and the interior designer. A relatively simple solution of rotating office carols created an enormous upswing in user happiness, which was immediately reflected in employee productivity.

Grubbins shared how the Albanese Organization has been actively using extensive staff training and real-time metering data to maintain efficiency in three of the company’s Battery buildings.

In many ways, post-occupancy evaluation is trying to drill down to the essential purity of efficiency. The answers to the questions posed are as follows: How do you get data? Best case scenario: work with clients to collect and share data; worst case scenario: bribe a guard to leave the door to the utilities room open on a regular basis. How much data can you gather? As much as you can or as much as you need. What is the right data for your purposes? This depends on what you want to do. What is the right time to gather data? About one-and-a-half years out or, if possible, continually. How do you cover the costs of gathering and analyzing the data? Explain to your clients how POEs benefit both of you, or make room for it in your marketing and budget if the client doesn’t agree.

Eve Dilworth Rosen is the Director of Program Committees at the AIA New York Chapter.

Event: It’s Occupied, Now What? Post-Occupancy Client Reengagement
Location: Center for Architecture, 09.08.15
Speakers: Michael Gubbins, LEED AP, Senior Vice President, Albanese Organization; Chris Garvin, Managing Partner, Terrapin Bright Green; Julie Hiromoto, AIA, LEED AP BD+C, Associate, Skidmore Owings & Merrill; and Z Smith, Principal and Director of Sustainability and Building Performance, Eskew+Dumez+Ripple
Organized by: AIANY Committee on the Environment
Sponsored by: ConEdison