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. And then, dream of dreams, ways that knowledge might be shared to inform future design.
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.
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.