The Survey Says: The Value in Post-Occupancy Evaluation in Higher Education
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Sixth Street Residence Halls, University of Arizona
Sixth Street Residence Halls, University of Arizona - NAC Architecture
If you have ever participated in the popular fall tradition of a corn maze, then you are familiar with the explorer’s plight. Participants eagerly try to navigate their way through an elaborate cornfield labyrinth using a game board and a series of scattered clues and puzzles to aid them in their quest. But what if they didn’t have any guiding information to help them establish their location relative to the entrance or exit? They could (and probably would) wander in circles, or repeatedly run into dead ends, without even realizing it.
Without feedback, architects are like explorers wandering in a maze that lacks a game board. Effective feedback tells us what we are or are not understanding, where our performance is going well or poorly, and how we should direct our subsequent efforts. Without it, it’s easy to wander in circles without even knowing it.
At NAC, we’ve found the most effective way to gain valuable feedback is through a post-occupancy evaluation. These surveys provide targeted information on our previous performance that guides future designs and helps us achieve our desired level of service.
New Residence Hall, Bellevue College
New Residence Hall, Bellevue College - NAC Architecture
The primary purpose of the post-occupancy evaluation is to describe the architectural experience of a building’s occupant – the student, teacher, maintenance/operations staff member, or administrator. Through an understanding of their experience working or living in the building, we can better comprehend how well we met our client’s stated goals set forth at the beginning of a project while gaining valuable feedback on new needs and desires.
Example of Post-Occupancy Survey Results in Higher Education
In the spring of 2016 we surveyed the occupants of a new residence hall at a public four-year university *. This residence hall was the second newest hall on campus at the time of survey. Significant findings included the following:
These findings, though unique to this survey group, warrant further investigation. As post-occupancy evaluations continue to be rolled out, we’ll have more information to compare between and across different populations. This will help us develop a more complete understanding of what students seek when considering their housing.
*Ninety-seven percent of the students surveyed were full-time undergraduate students, between the ages of 18-24 years old.
Sixth Street Residence Halls, University of Arizona
Sixth Street Residence Halls, University of Arizona - NAC Architecture