Can Economics explain why we don’t know what schools users think of their schools?

Recently I’ve been learning about Post-Occupancy Evaluation, mostly from the tons of great resources at the Usable Buildings Trust. It’s got me thinking why there’s nothing in place for systematically asking the young people and adults who spend lots of time in school buildings what they think of those school buildings nor means to share that information in order to inform future designs.

One reason might be economic. Knowledge is a public good, defined as (1) non-rivalrous (my use of it creates no limitations for your use of it, unlike an ice-cream) and (2) non-excludable (once produced, people cannot be excluded from its enjoyment or use). Together, this means that knowledge cannot be produced privately except by imposing protection mechanisms to make it in some way excludable, and so saleable, or by inflating the costs of sharing the knowledge.

Public goods tend to be under-produced as a result – whilst all could benefit from their production, a market-only system has neither the incentive to produce nor to distribute them.

If knowledge about what people in schools want from their school buildings is to be produced and to feed into improved future design, it needs public investment.

Source: Post-Occupancy Evaluation as Voice for Users of Schools?
Post-Occupancy Evaluation could be one way to give a voice to users of schools and to make future school design better

There’s plenty more besides economics to explain why we don’t hear enough from the people in buildings about buildings. I’m going to have a look at some of these in an interview I’ll post in the next week or so. It’s with an expert in Post-Occupancy Evaluation and we had an interesting chat today – though it’s simplistic to say so, I think anything that’s on the side of users should be given more of a voice.



    1. Hi Kenn, happened but not edited. However, a recent book has a chapter (no. 7) “School Buildings – what the users really think” in School Design Together, Pamela Woolner (ed) I’ve not read it but it looks great, written by Adrian Leaman and Rod Bunn who are v well respected here in the UK on PoE. Will be in contact when the interview’s up. Thanks for getting in touch, Adam



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