Rethinking of design excellence via building performance: with particular reference to the RIBA Award-winning schools in the UK

Chen, Yanti (2016) Rethinking of design excellence via building performance: with particular reference to the RIBA Award-winning schools in the UK. PhD thesis, University of Nottingham.

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Too often, buildings do not correspond to the original design aspirations of designers. This PhD project aims to investigate whether or not buildings branded as exhibiting ‘design excellence’ perform well in practice, focusing on the quality of the indoor environment and the satisfaction of occupants. It also intends to explore how to ensure that buildings with design quality achieve good performance in use.

Buildings which won reputable design awards are assumed as exhibiting design excellence acknowledged by the architectural profession. With the need for sustainable schools with design quality, the Post-occupancy Evaluation (POE) studies of five RIBA Award-winning schools were conducted in this research, using the case study approach for two years, in order to investigate actual performance of the schools branded as exhibiting design excellence. The POE studies which measured building performance, i.e. environmental performance and energy performance, and architectural performance, i.e. user feedback, handover issues, management and maintenance, were carried out in each of the case studies. The evaluation results were then compared with the latest environmental standards and the corresponding benchmarks.

The case studies show that not all the schools studied achieved good performance in practice. Common issues emerged in four of the five schools, related to daylighting, overheating issues, the use of low carbon technologies, gaps between predicted and actual energy performance and occupant experience – use of controls. It indicates that receiving architectural excellence awards cannot assure good performance in use, and hence the ‘performance gap’ between the original design intention of the designers and actual building performance. The performance gap was found due largely to the inappropriate design decisions related to environmental design issues and improper operation and maintenance in use, besides the issues related to construction process which was not studied in this research. The design-related factors – design process and aftercare service – were inferred to have a great impact on building performance.

This research project results in three contributions to existing knowledge and practice. The first contribution is to provide guidance for the evaluation of building performance of non-domestic buildings, especially schools. The guidance is composed of three key performance indicators (KPIs) that can be further divided into seven performance indexes, allowing the evaluation undertaken in a holistic manner rather than simply relying on an individual asset. The second contribution is to summarise challenges and constraints in conducting POE studies of schools. Specific recommendations regarding how to collect meaningful data for POE studies of schools were provided, which can be used as a reference for others. The third contribution is the analysis of the impact of design process and aftercare service on building performance and the corresponding suggestions of judging building performance in the RIBA Awards. As it is difficult to judge actual performance of a project in design award schemes due to the ‘time’ effect of awards, the awards submission is suggested to stress on documentation related to these elements in order to assist the jury to judge building performance in a sensible manner.

This research highlights the importance of understanding and assessing building performance in determining design excellence. Building Performance Evaluation (BPE) should be made mandatory for all entries for the RIBA Awards and other architectural excellence awards. Alternatively, architectural design awards could be judged on actual performance of the buildings which received the awards after a few years of occupation through a valid POE study. With the technical nature of POE studies, it suggests POE studies for award-winning buildings to be done by a third party.

Item Type: Thesis (University of Nottingham only) (PhD)
Supervisors: Ford, Brian
Hale, Jonathan
Keywords: Building performance evaluation; Post-occupancy evaluation; school design; environmental design; RIBA Awards
Subjects: L Education > LB Theory and practice of education
N Fine Arts > NA Architecture
Faculties/Schools: UK Campuses > Faculty of Engineering > Built Environment
Item ID: 33623
Depositing User: Chen, Yanti
Date Deposited: 15 Aug 2016 11:03
Last Modified: 26 Dec 2017 13:22

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