4. Post-occupancy review

4.1 Definition 

Post-occupancy review is the process used to measure a project’s success and focuses on determining whether the needs of the occupants have been effectively satisfied. Post-occupancy review measures: 

  • the extent to which the project outcome meets the occupants’ expectations in relation to the physical workplace environment and the functionality of the design 
  • the effectiveness of the design, construction and occupancy process. 

Post-occupancy reviews of the physical workplace outcome generally limit surveys to the occupants. However, when new work patterns are being introduced in conjunction with a new fitout, senior-executive input may also be useful. 

Post-occupancy reviews undertaken to measure the effectiveness of the process can be wider and include responses from occupants, the agency’s project team and the senior executive. Input from the project consultant’s perspective can also be constructive. 

In addition, a technical post-occupancy review can be undertaken to compare the actual performance of building services with the design performance. These reviews can evaluate workplace environmental conditions such as temperature, humidity, lighting levels and acoustics but require expert advice and special equipment. The Department of Housing and Public Works can provide further information and services in relation to these technical reviews if required. 

4.2 Timing and method 

Typically, a post-occupancy review should be carried out between 3 and 6 months after the completion of the project to allow occupants to become accustomed to the new surroundings and potentially new ways of working, and avoiding comments that could be premature. 

Post-occupancy reviews can be undertaken informally through meetings, interviews and discussion groups or more formally using structured survey forms. In both cases, the results should be recorded, analysed and provided to the occupants, the agency’s executive and the project consultants. Comments, or a formal response to the review results, should be sought from the project consultants. 

For post-occupancy reviews to be useful, a rating system is needed to measure occupants’ satisfaction. Rating systems vary in complexity and generally require the survey respondent to make a choice within a range of satisfaction indicators such as: 

  • satisfactory or unsatisfactory, rated as 1 or 0 respectively 
  • good, acceptable or poor, rated as 3, 2 and 1 respectively 
  • excellent, very good, good, fair, and poor, rated from 5 to 1 accordingly. 

More rating levels than 5 generally are not useful because respondents cannot accurately make such fine distinctions. 

A total numerical score for a review is also not useful because of the possibility that high scores for less important factors could mask low scores in areas that occupants might consider to be more important. A profile of the review’s results by separate category (or grouped into similar categories) can provide a better and more-detailed indication of the project’s success than a single number. 

Agencies are encouraged to seek advice from HPW in relation to post-occupancy review. 

4.3 Benefits 

A thorough assessment of the responses to a post-occupancy review can provide valuable lessons for future projects and contribute to continuous improvement in both the workplace environment and in the way office fitout projects are managed by agencies, HPW and project consultants. In addition, the post-occupancy review becomes an inclusive process for occupants and is an important part of a project’s communication strategy. Finally, the process identifies any issues for rectification, adjustment or refinement. 

In the case of large projects, or projects where substantial changes to work patterns have occurred, follow-up reviews, which incorporate additional evaluation criteria (such as productivity improvements, reduced absenteeism and the like) are desirable. Careful evaluation of these results is required, preferably involving expert advice, to establish the extent to which the workplace environment is influencing business outcomes. 

4.4 Categories of post-occupancy review 

Post-occupancy reviews can be: 

  • indicative 
  • investigative 
  • diagnostic. 

Indicative post-occupancy reviews provide information on significant successes and problems and can be as simple as a walk-through evaluation. Selected interviews can also be included as part of the walk-through, or separately. 

Investigative post-occupancy reviews are more detailed and require formal data-collection techniques. Interviews need to be structured and unambiguous. More time and resources are required for this type of review than for an indicative review. Standard templates can be used to survey respondents or customised questionnaires can be prepared. 

Diagnostic post-occupancy reviews are more detailed than both of the previous types. These reviews are comprehensive and generally initiated only for large-scale project reviews or when serious problems have developed or when the review is part of a rigorous research project. Diagnostic post-occupancy reviews generally require expert advice and management. 

The practice note Undertaking a post-occupancy review of office accommodation (PDF, 562 KB) is included with this guideline as a supporting document. The practice note includes sample templates for occupant surveys. 

4.5 Satisfaction surveys by the Department of Housing and Public Works 

HPW is required to undertake periodic client-satisfaction surveys to fulfil its service obligations and to improve its service delivery. From time to time, agencies will be requested to participate in these surveys, generally by interview or by completiing survey forms. Occupying agencies are also encouraged to provide feedback at any time to HPW about office-accommodation matters.