Avec la collaboration de Haugen, Tore, Vissanen, Kari, Alexander, Keith and Granath, Jan Åke | Fenker, Michael

Usable Workplaces – Investigating the Concept

In THEN (D.), JONES (K.), HINKS (J.), Human Elements in Facilities Management – Understanding the Needs of our Costumers, CIB W70 symposium Hong Kong, 7-8 décembre 2004, actes du colloque (publication 297), pp. 217-224.

Conventional approaches to building performance focus on technical, functional and operational aspects of their use.

More recently, building performance appraisal has focused on functionality, serviceability and accessibility in an attempt to assess buildings-in-use. On the other hand, post occupancy evaluation seeks to relate building performance to the design intentions. However, occupying organisations consider buildings from a different perspective, as workplace settings, and need appropriate concepts and techniques to assess their value.

In contrast, usability is one of the most important, but most often neglected, aspects in the assessment of buildings and workplaces. Work to apply concepts of usability, widely used in appraisal of other consumer products, to building design, construction, management and use is in its infancy. A new CIB task group (TG51) has been created to apply concepts of usability, commonly used in the fields of IT and engineering, to provide a better understanding of the user experience of buildings and workplaces.

The work of the task group proceeds through a programme of action research, comprising an intensive series of case studies and workshops, in association with occupying organisations, to produce research findings within a ’business’ timeframe, to satisfy a practice audience, and to identify the scope for further collaboration amongst research partners.

The paper introduces key concepts and discusses some of the theoretical issues raised by this novel research approach, which aims to generate new knowledge for use in design and management in the built environment. The paper describes the selected cases, from four European countries, presents the case study framework and raises methodological issues arising out of the work. The case studies consider the use of particular tools and techniques for assessing usability - community-based planning, universal design and design quality indicators – in the context of facilities management. Results of the two-year programme of work will be presented at the congress.

The paper will be appropriate for a mixed audience of practitioners, researchers and academics and will highlight the opportunities for collaboration in ‘new knowledge production’.

Keywords : Usability, building performance, workplace appraisal, ‘new knowledge production’