A building that is delivered to specification, budget and timeline might satisfy many of the quality requirements of the project team, but its functional quality can only be judged once the building is operational. This means that quality assessment needs to be resourced post-occupancy, and end users will become a key influencer of perceived and reported quality.
What is important to end users?
Two issues emerged strongly for us:
- Certification requirements
A number of activities carried out in our buildings require certification, for example the storage of hazardous materials. Certification is usually managed by end users, and typically includes the achievement of standards for fitout elements such as floor coverings and service adjacencies.
If international design consultants are engaged for building fitout, ensure they follow New Zealand specifications for the intended use of the spaces, and also ensure that design change decisions made by architects take account of functional requirements. Modifying fitout to achieve certification post occupancy can be both costly and disruptive for end users.
- Work environments
It can be difficult to provide natural light in all office spaces but this is a key factor influencing end user satisfaction. Functional adjacencies, for example between laboratories and teaching spaces, are also important, as is noise transmission, and convenient access to service outlets for data, electricity, lighting and gas.
These elements may change during detailed design or value engineering but university staff turnover is low so, even if buildings take several years to reach completion, it is likely that the same staff who provide input into the initial design will occupy the finished spaces. Keeping these people involved in design updates is vital to a smooth transition and to avoiding negative feedback if the built reality does not match long-held expectation.
Appoint an end-user Project Manager
End users are not building experts and it is important for design professionals to take the lead on balancing user needs with costs and timeline, but there needs to be a clear and adequately resourced line of communication. We appointed a Project Manager for each building to work between the end users and the project team. This person understood both BAU and the build process, and was able to manage design input and feedback, as well as transition planning.