Study: Design leads to occupant satisfaction, better performance of schools

Study: Design leads to occupant satisfaction, better performance of schools

The study centered on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. School. Photo courtesy of Perkins Eastman


Key design strategies correlate to occupant satisfaction and building performance within schools, a new report finds.

“Measuring Up: Using Pre- and Post-Occupancy Evaluation to Assess High-Performance School Design,” by design and architecture firm Perkins Eastman used the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. School in Cambridge, Mass., as a test case. The study showed that the high-performance design strategies employed in the design of the MLK School had a significant and measurable impact on both occupant satisfaction and building performance. 

The findings tie high-performance design strategies to improved building performance and increased satisfaction, bringing the theoretical value-add proposition for high-performance design into reality, according to the report.

The overarching goal of the school’s design was to synthesize objectives to enhance educational outcomes within this urban district and to pursue attributes of net zero energy. Together, these goals inspired a sustainable, high-performance urban learning environment that can serve as a prototype for the school district and potentially nationwide. These same lessons also add to the design industry’s understanding of high-performance design. 

The white paper is co-authored by a group at Perkins Eastman representing broad research, sustainability and K-12 school design. 

“By evaluating and analyzing our work, we are able to make smarter decisions moving forward to enhance educational outcomes, improve our communities, and reduce our environmental impact—and to do so in the most economical means possible,” said Sean O’Donnell, leader of Perkins Eastman’s K-12 practice. “This feedback loop moves us closer to creating truly sustainable, high-performance learning environments for our clients and communities.” 

Perkins Eastman’s study is distinguished from other academic studies investigating indoor environmental quality (IEQ) in schools in that it was designed to examine multiple, concurrent factors — producing a more holistic picture than single variables studied in isolation can provide. In Perkins Eastman’s study, satisfaction levels increased between 53-66 percent in every measure, indicating meaningful improvement. These measures included daylight, thermal comfort, acoustics and air quality. 

By showing that even minor improvements in building performance using high-performance design strategies can significantly impact occupant satisfaction and performance, the case study can be applicable to any industry where occupant performance is significant— especially in educational, office and health care environments. 

“Measuring Up” is available for download here


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