Architects urgently need to learn from good and bad projects, says RIBA president

The government must insist on post-occupancy evaluations (POE) for all publicly funded buildings, RIBA president Alan Jones said today.

Ministers should investigate how the Building Regulations could be amended to include POE, he added.

Architects must learn from their mistakes as well as from best practice, said Jones.

“We would all benefit from an approach that made it easier to learn from both successful and more troubled projects via post-occupancy evaluation,” he said. “To observers from other sectors, this sounds obvious. We need to embrace a culture of accountability and continuous improvement.”

Alan Jones

Alan Jones

His remarks came as the institute published a report urging the government, local authorities and the wider construction sector to embed POE as standard practice to ensure all new buildings meet intended energy efficiency ratings and provide value for money.

It is calling for a systematic change within the built environment, including housebuilders who receive Help to Buy government loans.

In 2019 the public sector spent £4bn on new school and college projects. RIBA cited research showing that undertaking POE adds an additional 0.1%-0.25% as a proportion of a project’s costs.

Among the RIBA’s recommendations are that:

:: The government require POE as a condition for all publicly funded buildings and housebuilders receiving Help to Buy payments.

:: The National Audit Office (NAO) operate on the assumption that all new publicly funded buildings have undertaken POE and highlight those which have not.

:: Those designing and constructing buildings should highlight the benefits of POE to clients and include POE as standard when bidding for projects.

:: Clients should ensure POE is included in their contractual obligations with the project team from the outset.

In his preface to the report Jones said: “As Dame Judith Hackett noted in her report on the disaster at Grenfell Tower, a complete change in construction industry culture is needed to address issues of quality, safety and sustainability.

“The message is very clear. We need to embrace a culture of accountability and continuous improvement, and that starts with checking the true performance and impact of buildings on the environment.

“If the government is serious about reaching net-zero by 2050, post-occupancy evaluation must be embedded into all projects that receive full or partial public funding now for the future of our planet and its people.”