How to carry out a POE

An example day on site for 1 to 2 people carrying out a POE (some of these activities may not be relevant depending on which techniques have been chosen to undertake the POE)


No industry standard for POE

There is no industry standard for POEs, and as such there is no set agenda in terms of what should be analysed and what methodology should be used. One may develop a bespoke solution or use an established method. A bespoke solution may be useful for specific investigations, but expertise may be needed to interpret the findings and a lack of useful benchmarks can give less meaningful results.


Which methodology for POE?

There are many different established methodologies or feedback techniques which can be used for POE - so many that it can be confusing when trying to select the appropriate method. The following page (link to POE methodologies and feedback techniques') lists a few examples of common feedback techniques. For more information refer to the Usable Buildings Trust which has a very comprehensive comparison of these and other feedback techniques.


Adopt a variety of techniques

It is generally accepted as good practice to adopt a variety of techniques, both quantitive and qualitive, as part of the POE process. The exact POE structure can vary from project to project depending on what is most suitable and may include the following:


1 Environmental Performance Assessment including an energy survey

The Environmental Performance Assessment can include measuring energy consumption, water consumption, indoor air quality, lighting levels and noise levels. Energy consumption should be measured through meter readings over a period of at least 2 years (not counting the first year in use). This can prove difficult where there are inadequate or worse no submeters to analyse energy usage properly or when sub-metering does not (even approximately) add up to the main utility meter total. Results should be compared to both design predictions and good practice benchmarks


2 Assessment of Occupant Satisfaction generally via an occupant survey

You could write your own survey but unless you have a good understanding and experience of POEs this would be a risky approach. It is generally better to use a tried and tested survey guaranteeing more meaningful (and perhaps less biased) results.


3 Building Walkthrough to inspect the building's operation & reassess build quality & wear and tear.

This is a walking tour of the building with both building users and persons carrying out the POE. The walkthrough is an effective way of ascertaining whether there are any emerging problems or wasteful operational practices related to energy performance and is also a chance to reassess build quality & wear and tear. It is less biased and often more revealing if the person doing the walkthrough is impartial, in other words not a member of the design team. There may be several walkthroughs done for the one POE, when the building is in full use and also at a time when the building is unoccupied. The latter can be very revealing if electrical or heating systems are not switched off due to faulty automatic systems or mismanagement. It can also be helpful if a walkthrough takes place after the occupant and energy survey to enable any specific results from both the environmental assessment and occupant survey to be further investigated.


4. Structured discussions or focus group meetings

This may be a preliminary questionnaire for the building/facilities manager or a focus group with specific building users to further investigate any specific results from both the environmental assessment and occupant surveys.


When to carry out a POE

A POE would normally be carried out after the first year of use to allow the building and its associated services to settle and be fine tuned.


How long does a POE take?

It is dependent on the number and type of techniques used, but expect a comprehensive POE which undertakes a variety of methodologies such as those described above to take typically about one man-month over 2-3 elapsed months. Applying a more integral framework for POEs, such as soft landings, will extend the duration of a project, and then for about three years beyond practical completion (although extra activity beyond handover will be mainly maintaining communications with the users and attending to any teething problems encountered in the first three months of occupancy).


Can I do it myself?

It depends on which technique(s) is chosen, some require trained facilitators and some such as the soft landings framework for POE must be carried out oneself, although you may benefit from additional help. Some techniques are publicly available while others require a license or are delivered by a specific consultancy. Many techniques such as the energy assessment can require skill and experience to produce accurate and meaningful results.


Be careful of Data Smog: adopt a drill-down approach

I have coined this phrase from Bill Bordass who regularly tells one to "Adopt a drill-down approach" or Roderic Bunn of BSRIA who would advise in "taking a graduated approach and only go into further detail where it is really needed".

1.Get some useful KEY data
2.Deeper investigation where needed


Illustration 'Careful of Data Smog'


'Take a graduated approach only go into further detail where it is really needed'. Roderic Bunn of BSRIA


'Adopt a drill-down approach' Bill Bordass


Next page: POE - Different feedback techniques


© 2014 Anna Pamphilon of Pamphilon Architects




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