There is a crisis of premature building deterioration due, at least in part, to inadequate performance. This crisis has been particularly notable in office buildings. In addition, there are apparently conflicting demands in office environments: to reduce the energy consumption of buildings, to maintain or improve the productivity of employees accommodated, to satisfy their demands for a degree of environmental choice and control, and to respond to increased consumer awareness about the quality of such environmental attributes as air and lighting levels.
The approach taken in building diagnostics is highly innovative. In order to solve the complex problems being encountered, investigators have to diagnose buildings in transdisciplinary ways. This approach to problem solving requires that each disciplinary subgroup keep in mind a larger shared picture of the team's joint goals, that data are gathered concurrently and analyzed so as to test the findings and implications of decisions in each area, and that recommendations be examined that minimize negative side effects.
Occupancy analysis is one aspect of a transdisciplinary approach. It focuses on issues of environmental effectiveness, user well-being and control, and change (incremental and major) by probing patterns of, and attitudes towards, occupancy and use. This paper presents a case study in which this approach was applied. Occupancy analysis data, gathered with concurrent base technical testing of ambient environmental conditions, was used to focus more detailed technical testing in specific areas as necessary, thus reducing the enormous costs of blanket technical testing. Occupancy analysis provided critical data on perceived environmental comfort and effectiveness to be compared with the actual measurement of environmental conditions. The objective of this diagnostic project was to improve energy performance without diminishing environmental quality within office areas.
Increasingly it is being realized that unless all participants in building design, operation, and maintenance have an improved collective understanding of how to design and control the technical systems and layouts in buildings over time, new problems or negative side effects may be unintentionally created by unidisciplinary action. Diagnostic studies explore the possibility that improvement can be achieved by nurturing a sense of collective competence and well-being of occupants rather than the current sense of environmental deprivation, while minimizing operating and maintenance costs as well as building deterioration.