Post-Occupancy Evaluation: Learning from the Past

From the conceptual phase to final construction, SMMA is faced with the challenge of creating designs that excel in both form and function. We value the economic and aesthetic goals of the client, and our designs aim to showcase an optimal balance of the two. To improve our work, we must evaluate our existing designs, searching for opportunities to refine them. We virtually model our designs with certain assumptions about final conditions, such as indoor and outdoor environments, equipment loads, and space use. By verifying our predictions with real performance metrics, we can iterate and improve our designs until we better understand what we are measuring and how realistic our virtual model assumptions are.

To continue providing the highest level of performance excellence, SMMA tracks successes and areas for improvement from project to project. In our K-12 schools, we have developed a process to aggregate utility bills, analyze energy consumption, and record differences between predictions and actual performance.


A similar approach was applied to daylighting. We widen our lenses to assess qualitative performance through in-person evaluations; to understand the quality of experience in our spaces, we gather occupant comments and experiences that cannot be captured by numbers. 

In 2012, SMMA performed an in-person assessment of daylit spaces at three of its recent school constructions: Grafton High School, The Center School, and Quincy High School. The exploration of the spaces highlighted the more successful spaces, and also provided us with a realistic translation of 10-foot candles of illumination. Additionally, through discussions with teachers at Quincy High School, we discovered that certain rooms were facing issues of glare at 6:00 a.m., coming from the east side.

Our models were run at 9:00 a.m., noon, and 3:00 p.m.; these times are dictated by the certifications that we had achieved. Without this information, we would have missed opportunities for occupant comfort and enjoyment of the spaces. When given a window into our design performance, we can adjust our parameters as needed.

In modeling our buildings for daylighting, we now know to consider the schedules of all of our occupants, and to design our shading as much as possible around these issues. This is just one example of understanding how our design will be ultimately enjoyed, and how we must act as stewards of our building designs.

We utilize data as a method of recalibrating our current design process, and to ensure continued performance excellence during the design and afterward.