“Every new piece of construction is to some extent a hypothesis and its performance in practice is the experiment.” Bill Bordass1 (p29)

On Thursday the 6th the RIBA, CIBSE and their other partners will be launching the revamped CarbonBuzz platform – the online platform that allows users to record both predicted and actual energy use over time.  But why measure these in the first place? Post-occupancy evaluation, whether it is of energy performance (as recorded on the CarbonBuzz platform) or any other aspect of a building’s performance in use, is founded on the two aphorisms, accredited to Lord Kelvin, “To measure is to know” and “If you cannot measure it, you cannot improve it”. 

CarbonBuzz logo

The evidence collected so far, from CarbonBuzz’s 400-odd sets of data, and from publications such as Jones Lang Lasalle’s recent “Are Energy Performance Certificates (EPCs) a true indicator of energy efficiency?” supports what was previously suggested only by anecdotal evidence:  that buildings are consuming more energy in use than they were predicted to – the ‘Performance Gap’.  You may have seen recent articles on the ‘Performance Gap’ in the AJ (25 April 2013) where they launched their ‘Bridge the Gap’ campaign.

A study that the RIBA will be publishing later in the summer that looks at the way that architects use information such as this – research-based information – in practice suggests that one of the key benefits for architects is in terms of innovation gains:  understanding how buildings, and the (often) complicated systems within them, perform so that they can create innovative design to improve built outcomes in the future.

Over the next year the RIBA’s Sustainable Futures Group will be encouraging RIBA members to upload data to the CarbonBuzz platform.  They will also be looking at the barriers that exist to increased post-occupancy evaluation (such as those identified by Bordass & Leaman,2 Lawson et al.,3 and Andreu & Oreszczyn4).  We expect that they will agree with previous studies that found that some barriers are largely perceived barriers only (e.g. cost5) but that others are more significant, but – hopefully – not insurmountable.


1 Bordass, B. 2004. ‘Learning from what we build’ In: S. Macmillan ed. 2004. Designing better buildings: quality and value in the built environment. London: Spon. pp21-32.

2 Bordass, B. and Leaman, A. 2005a. ‘Making feedback and post-occupancy evaluation routine: a portfolio of feedback techniques.’ Building Research and Information 33(4), pp347-352. Available at: <http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/pdf/10.1080/09613210500162016> [Accessed 23 May 2013]

3 Lawson, B., Bassanino, M., Phiri, M. & Worthington, J. 2003 ‘Intentions, practices and aspirations: understanding learning in design’ [pdf] Design Studies 24(4) pp 327-339 Available at: <http://echo.iat.sfu.ca/library/lawson_03_practices_aspirations> [Accessed 20 May 2013]

4 Andreu, I.C. and Oreszczyn, T. 2005. ‘Architects need environmental feedback.’ Building Research & Information 32(4), pp313-328.  Available from: <www.tandfonline.com> [Accessed 23 May 2013]

5 Way, M. & Bordass, B. 2005. ‘Making feedback and post-occupancy evaluation routine 2: Soft Landings – involving design and building teams in improving performance.’ Building Research & Information, 33(4), pp 353-360. Available at: <http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/pdf/10.1080/09613210500162008> [Accessed 24 May 2013]

About anne.dye
Anne Dye is the Head of Technical Research at the Royal Institute of British Architects, and is responsible for delivering the RIBA’s research agenda. This includes the development, support and promotion of a range of strategic built-environment research projects both within the RIBA, in partnership with other organisations and within the wider research community, as well as providing advocacy for research to key stakeholders. She has spent the last decade undertaking quantitative and qualitative built-environment research, as part of multi-disciplinary teams, at the University of Cambridge and later at the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment. Her main research interests are housing quality, sustainable communities and design team / client dynamics. She has a background in science, and prior to concentrating on research was an engineer at Max Fordham LLP, undertaking a diverse range of projects. Anne joined the RIBA in 2011. Follow Anne on twitter at https://twitter.com/#!/AnneDyeResearch

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1 Comment
  1. giovanna berni

    July 28, 2013

    An invite for Riba students interested in Sustainability.
    Eco art points, in Tuscany, propose some eco art experiences in the formes of summer camps. Very interesting for architect students are the stage ” installations in bamboo and wood with nights in Tree sleeping” ( 2-4 august, we repete 5-7 august). We work with colours, wood by the farme and we work to have objects, scultupre, installations, spaces in an estate on the start of the Mugello. With the bamboo we have experience about what are a tensostructure.The leit motif are the book ” Genius Loci” ( from C. Norberg Schulz). The stage are doing by a Florentine architect, specialiste in bio-architecture, by Inbar.


    bamboo, colour, wood, re-use, like first touch-experience in sustainibility.

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