Skip to content

Development of a Post Occupancy Evaluation System for Design Practitioners Part 1 – Introduction and Overview

By: Robin Snell, OAA, Architect AAA, MRAIC, LEED AP, EDAC, Principal, Parkin Architects Limited, and Saleh Kalantari, Ph.D., EDAC, Certificate in Health System & Design, Assistant Professor, School of Design and Construction, Washington State University

Acknowledgements: We would like to thank Celeste Alvaro, Ph.D., Celeste Alvaro Research & Evaluation (CARE) and Gordon Burrill, P.Eng., Teegor Consulting Inc., and CSA committee members for their contributions to our work.

To complement our ongoing evidence-based design process, Parkin Architects developed a standardized Post-Occupancy Evaluation (POE) process for healthcare design projects.  The goal of the ongoing POE process is to; provide evidence to inform the design of projects; access the effectiveness of client –focused, outcome-based design innovations; and verify the contribution of design to the quality of the built environment.  The following is the first in a four-part series that will outline the development and initial results of our in-house POE system, comprising:

  • Part 1 Introduction and Context of POE
  • Part 2 Development of the Parkin POE process
  • Part 3 Results from the Parkin POE pilot project (4 specific projects)
  • Part 4 Lessons Learned and POE for Design Practitioners


Part 1  Introduction and Context

Post Occupancy Evaluation (POE) is defined as ‘the process of evaluating buildings in a systematic and rigorous manner after they have been built and occupied for some time’ (Preiser, 1995; Preiser and Vischer, 2006). Post occupancy evaluation (POE) is the study of built environment that addresses the success and failure of design decisions (Shepley, 2010). According to Zimring and Reizenstein (1980), POE ‘examines the effectiveness for human users of the occupied design environment’. This systematic evaluation measures and monitors the performance of a built environment using data gathered from behavioural, technical, and functional observation. POEs of hospital buildings emerged in the 1990s and are guided by a need to understand the ‘effects of health care environments on safety, efficiency, and clinical outcomes’ (Ulrich, 2006). While POE in healthcare design has proliferated in the academic setting, it remains a fledgling science at best for most facility owners and design practitioners.  In 2010, Mardelle McCuskey Shepley (PhD thesis advisor for co-author Saleh Kalantari) published Health Facility Evaluation for Design Practitioners suggesting “the time has come” for a business case and ‘How to Guide for PFE (Practitioner-focused Facility Evaluation)’.


The potential benefits of the POE process are undeniable, but its implementation on a broad scale is inhibited by a myriad of factors including:

  • Exclusion from conventional consultant contracts and fees.
  • The process is NOT inherent in conventional practice, education and training.
  • Competing interests and distractions (LEED, LEAN, EBD, BIM, IDP, etc.) within the industry.
  • Procurement rules for P3 projects typically exclude POE.
  • It is human nature to move on to the next project (shiny object) before an evaluation is complete.
  • It is not a government mandate.
  • POE standards, guidelines or data are not readily available.
  • POE studies take years, not months for robust pre- and post-evaluations.


POE in Canada and abroad is slowing gaining momentum in the mainstream, but there are very few standards, policies or guidelines available as summarized below:

  • To date there are no Canadian POE guidelines or standards.
  • Alberta developed a BPE (Building Performance Evaluation) system similar to a system developed in California as a pilot study, but it is yet to be policy or mandate.
  • A ‘Health Care Design Research Roundtable’, in affiliation with the University of Toronto and the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care (MoHLTC) is in the early stages of POE system development.
  • The Canadian Standards Association (CSA) has allocated CSA number Z8003 for a POE standard that is currently in the genesis stage.
  • The next edition of the CSA Area Measurement in Health Care Facilities may include a standardized area reporting template (net, component gross, building gross) as a starting point for a data base and analysis.
  • The CSA Technical Committee for Health Facility Design is considering inclusion of guidelines and targets for benchmarking in its suite of standards (Z8000, etc.).
  • The Ontario MoHLTC has commissioned 2-3 major POE studies with funding allocated to future studies such as ‘Design and Evaluation: The Path to Better Outcome’ study by Bridgepoint Active Healthcare (2014).
  • The Ontario MoHLTC has identified the need for a standardized POE process and methodology to help demonstrate value on investment.
  • The Canadian Centre for Healthcare Facilities (CCHF) is considering its role as provider of a Canadian EBD/POE “knowledge repository” with some similarity to the Centre for Health Design.
  • The FGI (AIA) POE ‘recommended best practice’ guideline is in development for 2018.
  • The Centre for Health Design continues to develop and monitor The Pebble Projects (The Center for Health Design, 2014).
  • Australia, England, and Scotland lead in providing specific guidelines for POE (Victorian Government Health Information, 2010; University of Westminster, 2006; The Scottish Government, 2012).
  • In England, A Guide to Post Occupancy Evaluation was developed to standardize the planning and evaluation process (University of Westminster, 2006). The toolkit offers guidance in planning, methods, and benchmarking.
  • In Scotland, an evaluation plan must be submitted in the first stage of the health capital planning process.


Within this context, Parkin developed a POE process to be outlined in Part 2 of this blog. Stay tuned!

Bridgepoint Active Healthcare. (2014). Design and Evaluation: The Path to Better Outcomes, Retrieved from
Preiser, W. F. (1995). Post-occupancy evaluation: How to make buildings work better. Facilities, 13(11), 19-28. doi:10.1080/09613210110072692
Preiser, W.F.E., & Vischer, J.C. (Eds) (2006). Assessing building performance. Oxford, UK: Elsevier.
Shepley, M. (2010). Health Facility Evaluation for Design Practitioners. Myersville, MD: Asclepion.
The Center for Health Design. (2014). Pebble Project, Retrieved from
The Scottish Government. (2012). Scottish Capital Investment Manual – Project Evaluation Guide. Retrieved from
Ulrich, R.S. (2006). Essay evidence-based health-care architecture. The Lancet, S368 (1), S38-S39.
University of Westminster. (2006). Guide to Post Occupancy Evaluation. Retrieved from
Victorian Government Health Information. (2010). Capital Development Guidelines, Retrieved from
Zimring, C. M., & Reizenstein, J. E. (1980). Post-occupancy evaluation an overview. Environment and Behavior, 12(4), 429-450.

Share this insight


Join our creative team

Unlock your potential and advance your career with Parkin. We’re committed to providing our employees with the tools, resources, and opportunities they need to achieve personal and professional growth.

Current opportunities