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Exploring School Building Data: Human Experience- Understanding Occupant Satisfaction

120 minutes
Suggested to split between two class periods
Primary subjects: 
Engineering, Environmental Education, Science
Grade: 
9, 10, 11, 12
5
Average: 5 (1 vote)
About

This lesson uses an online building performance data platform to explore ways to measure, understand, and improve human experience in schools. This lesson focuses on occupant satisfaction and human perceptions of a building's environment. Students will explore the ways occupant satisfaction is measured, how it relates to sustainability, and the differences in occupant satisfaction data between a green school and an average school.

Key objectives for students
Explain how school design and operation shape human experience.
Explain how conditions vary between conventional and green schools
Identify measurements that can be used to understand occupant satisfaction and evaluate indoor environmental conditions.
Secondary subjects
Career Technical Education (CTE), Mathematics
Topics
human experience, occupant satisfaction, Indoor Environmental Quality, occupant satisfaction survey
Skills
Critical Thinking, Systems thinking
Values
Curiosity
Methods
Design Thinking, Multi-Disciplinary, Real-World Application, Technology Integration
Background information for teachers

This lesson uses an online building performance data platform, the Arc Digital Playground, to explore ways to measure, understand, and improve human experience in schools. This lesson focuses on occupant satisfaction and human perceptions of a building's environment. Arc is an online building sustainability management platform that tracks and analyzes five aspects of a building’s performance: water consumption, energy consumption, waste production, transportation, and human experience.

The Digital Playground is a demo version of the Arc platform, where teachers and students can learn about science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) concepts using a set of sample schools, pre-loaded with data on energy, water, waste, and other key metrics.

If you are inspired by this lesson, you can apply the same concepts and tools to understand your school data and make a difference in the real world. Arc is free for all schools and getting started is easy:

  1. Create an account or log in to find your school on ArcSkoru
  2. Organize and enter your performance data
  3. Analyze, score, and improve your school

If you want to continue engaging students in investigating and improving their school's sustainability, check out Building Learners- a full-support K-12 education program that includes curriculum, Arc, trainings for teachers, and access to a green building professional. Building Learners engages students through real world, project-based learning about environmental and human health impacts. Pairing standards-aligned, hands-on lessons about sustainability, such as this lesson, and a robust building sustainability benchmarking and tracking tool, Arc, this program uses your own school building as a laboratory to teach STEM topics as well as engage students in action projects that develop skills and knowledge that can be applied across a range of subject areas and career pathways.

No matter what grade level you teach, these lessons can be used to envision how the Building Learners program may be implemented in your classroom. We suggest for anyone interested in Building Learners review these lessons to envision using school sustainability data with your students. We additionally suggest that all 9-12 grade teachers implement these lessons in the classroom before applying for the program.

Previous skills needed

Key Vocabulary

  • Perceived/Perception: a qualitative evaluation or assessment.
  • Measured: a quantitative calculation or count.
  • Occupant satisfaction: an evaluation the occupant makes of the building's conditions, based on that occupant's perceptions.
  • Green school: a school that has a reduced impact on the environment, promotes the health and well-being of its occupants, and increases the sustainability literacy of students and their community.
  • Architect: a professional who designs a building to meet clients needs, as well as the aesthetic appearance of the interior and exterior of the building. Architects also often supervise the construction of the building.
  • Building engineer: a professional who ensures that the design of the building is safe, functions appropriately, and meets applicable building codes. Engineers select structural materials, determine the structural members of the design, and specify the electrical, heating, ventilation, air conditioning and plumbing systems. The architect and building engineer often work together during the design and construction phases to ensure the building is designed and constructed efficiently and correctly.
  • Facilities Manager: a professional who manages a building's functionality post-construction and during occupancy. The facilities manager is accountable for services such as cleaning, security, parking, and utilities and waste management to make sure the surrounding environment is in a suitable condition to work.
In Advance
  • We suggest that teachers try opening the Arc Digital Playground on student devices before implementing lesson to anticipate any issues or questions.
Materials needed
Time Exercise Description
25 minutes Introduction to Human Experience
25 minutes How do we measure occupant satisfaction?
35 minutes How does occupant satisfaction compare between conventional and green schools?
15 minutes Analyze your occupant survey responses (optional)
Implementation

Introduction to Human Experience

1. As students come into class, pass out the human experience worksheet to each student to use throughout the class.

2. Display on the board the following questions. Ask students to answer in complete sentences and be prepared to share their thoughts. (Note: these answers can include both emotional and physical impacts)

  • How can a building negatively impact the people inside of it? Give at least two examples.
  • How can a building positively impact the people inside of it? Give at least two examples.

3. After they complete their answers, call on students to share their answers. Keep track of common answers by writing them on the board or asking students to write down common themes. (Common answers could be: being too cold/hot, being too stuffy/not well ventilated, not having enough light, having views to the outdoors, having spaces for people to ‘hang out’, etc.)

4. Tell students “there are many factors that make a green school, green. A green school does reduce environmental impacts, but it also provides safe, comfortable, and productive places for students and teachers. We call those second set of benefits the ‘Human Experience’ in buildings. We can measure those benefits or impacts on the human experience by:”

  • Human perceptions and occupant satisfaction
  • Measured indoor environmental conditions

5. Ask students to turn to the person next to them and explain what they think occupant satisfaction means. Tell students that you will define the term together in a few minutes.

6. Ask students what they think perception/perceived and measured means in this instance. (To perceive is to interpret or assess, so a perception is an assessment or interpretation. In this instance, the human perception of a building is a personal assessment of the building’s conditions. To measure is to calculate or count something. In this instance, the measured conditions are calculations of the environment.)

7. Using a T-chart on the board, brainstorm with students how these two factors can be measured. See the chart below for example answers.

alt text

8. Looking at the chart, ask students to identify which measurement would be qualitative and which would be quantitative. (Correct answer: Human perception and occupant satisfaction are qualitative measurements because they are observed and non-numerical. Measured indoor environmental conditions are quantitative measurements because they are values and numerical.)

9. “Today we’re going to focus on the qualitative measurements, the human perception and occupant satisfaction. We’ll explore three fundamental questions:”

  • How does school design and operation impact perceived experience and occupant satisfaction?
  • How is occupant satisfaction measured?
  • How does occupant satisfaction differ between conventional and green schools? 

(Teachers Note: It’s advised that these questions are displayed throughout the period)

10. Ask students, “what does occupant satisfaction mean and how does it relate to a building being green?” (Occupant satisfaction is a measurement of perceived conditions in a building by those who are in the space. By definition, a green school reduces environmental impacts, and provides safe, comfortable, and productive places for students and teachers.)

11. Ask students to pair up and pass out the Building Conditions Impacts matching cards, one set for each student pair. Give the students 5-10 minutes to match up the building conditions with their potential impacts and come together as a class to discuss their matches.

12. “When a building has these problems, it usually causes a decrease in occupant satisfaction. Fortunately, architects and facilities managers can do things to avoid these issues and deliver superior occupant satisfaction.”

13. “This isn’t done with magic technology or perfect design. Because design and engineering strategies are hypotheses (educated guesses) about how to provide a satisfying space, buildings managers must consistently measure the environment conditions and adapt their practices to improve over time.”

How do we measure occupant satisfaction?

1. “Now that we understand some of the factors shaping occupant satisfaction, let’s consider how we can measure real world performance.”

2. “Let’s consider our classroom. Take a moment and think of how satisfied you are with this classroom right now. What conditions make it good or bad?” Allow students a minute to think, then have students share their opinions.

3. “Now, think about how satisfied you are with this entire school building over the last year. What conditions make it good or bad?”

4. “Occupants are amazing sensors of the indoor environment. We can consider all the conditions we’re exposed to, weigh each factor against our preferences, and express our satisfaction with a space. Our ability to recall and integrate experiences is very nuanced, but also subject to a variety of biases and distortions. For example, recent events are more heavily weighted than older events. Uncomfortable events receive more weight than average events. Additionally, our sensitivity to some conditions changes over time (e.g., odors).”    

5. “Knowing this, what do you think is the most efficient way to measure how satisfied occupants are with the space?” Allow students to discuss briefly with each other and then call on one or two students to share with the group.

6. “Occupant satisfaction is typically measured with surveys that ask occupants to describe their experience in a specific space over a certain period of time. This starts with asking basic questions about their experience (how happy are you with your classroom, for example) and then following up to understand the factors driving their experience (is it too cold, is it stuffy, for example).”

7. Below are two options for the next step of the lesson. Option A directs students to take the Arc occupant survey for their school and requires the teacher to set up the school's Arc Profile (see instructions in the Additional Teaching tips below) beforehand. Option B uses screenshots of the Arc survey to display for students to write down their answers.

  • 7a: “Now, we’re going to take our own occupant survey about our school.” Direct students to individually go to the occupant survey link you were given when you set up your school’s Arc profile (see instructions in the Additional Teaching Tips below). Tell students they can make up their answer to the first question about transportation and to not put in their name or location at the bottom. Ask students to reflect and answer honestly about their satisfaction with their school environment.

  • 7b: Use the provided screenshots of the Arc occupation survey to display to students. Read through each question as a class and have students record their answers to each question on a separate piece of paper. Ask students to reflect and answer honestly about their satisfaction with their school environment.

8. Tell students, “now that we have an idea of what is included in an occupant survey, let’s look at real results from schools in the United States. We’ll come back to our answers later in the lesson.”

How does occupant satisfaction compare between conventional and green schools?

1. “Now that we understand a bit about the factors shaping occupant satisfaction and how to measure it, let’s consider how human experience varies between conventional and green schools.”

2. “We’re going to be looking at two high schools, a green high school and an average high school. Remembering what makes a green school green (a green school reduces environmental impacts, and provides safe, comfortable, and productive places for students and teachers), in what ways do you think the two are going to differ in occupant satisfaction? Which school will have a higher average occupant satisfaction?” Have students share their hypotheses with the class, noting common themes in answers.

3. Direct students to go to the Digital Playground. When on the site, click Buildings on the left panel, then My School. This will display a list of four schools. We will use Average High School and Green High School for this lesson.

4. “Let’s start by considering the Average High School. This school represents typical conditions for a conventional, non-green school in the United States.” Direct students to click on Credits/Actions, then Data Input, then look at the sections under Human Experience.

5. “The first chart, titled ‘Satisfaction Rating’, shows that the occupants of the school were surveyed twice, once in October 2018 and again in March 2019. Results from both surveys are combined in the chart below.”

6. Direct students to explore the charts individually or with a partner, working to answer the questions below on their worksheet.

  • What is the most common satisfaction rating reported?
  • What is the most common reported complaint of the space? How could that negatively impact students learning?
  • How could a facilities manager use this information to improve the space? If they fixed the most common complaint, how would you expect the data to change if the survey was taken again?

7. After giving students ample time to explore the charts and answer the questions for the Average High School (10-15 minutes), direct them to click back to Buildings → My Schools and select the Green High School. Ask them to navigate to the Green High School’s occupant satisfaction survey data.

8. Direct students to explore the charts individual or with a partner, working to answer the questions below on their worksheet.

  • What is the most common satisfaction rating reported?
  • What is the most common reported complaint on the space? How could that negatively impact students learning?
  • How could a facilities manager use this information to improve the space? If they fixed the most common compliant, how would you expect the data to change if the survey was taken again?

9. “Now that we’ve looked at both school’s occupant satisfaction ratings, let’s compare the two schools.” Direct students to work with a partner to answer the questions below on their worksheet.

  • What is similar about the two school’s occupant survey results? What is different?
  • How are the range of responses different between the schools? Is one more narrow than the other or are they both equally distributed?
  • What are some of the factors that architects and engineers need to consider when designing a safe, comfortable, and productive learning environment?
  • Looking around your classroom, identify three features intended to enhance occupant satisfaction.
  • Describe three conditions in your classroom that reduce your satisfaction or productivity. What causes these conditions?

Analyze your occupant survey responses (optional)

1. Time permitting, go to Arcskoru and login to your account and navigate to your school’s Human Experience Occupant survey results. Display on the board for all students to see and say, “now let’s look at our own responses from the survey.”

2. Ask students if they’re surprised by the results or if they generally agree with the consensus. Through a class discussion, explore what the most common complaints were and how that negatively impacts their ability to learn. What strategies might your school facility managers use to improve the school’s occupant satisfaction?

Additional teaching tips

If you would like to have your students complete the occupant survey for their school, take these steps to set up your school's Arc profile. Note: an Arc profile for your school can be displayed to students via one device, while you are logged in.

Take these steps:

1. Collect this information about your school:

  • Gross Floor Area: Generally, the gross floor area is the sum of the floor areas of the spaces within the building, including basements, mezzanine and intermediate-floored tiers, and penthouses. (Sample answer: 130,000 square-feet)
  • Operating Hours: Typically, review the average time the building operates during the weekday and if this changes during the weekend.
  • Occupancy: The number of people typically in the building. Ensure this number includes any visitors to the building and any part time staff members (Sample answer: 850)

2. Go to www.arcskoru.com
3. Login using your Learning Lab or USGBC login credentials
4. Navigate to "Projects" and " + Add a Project"
5. Enter in the required information to set up your school's profile. Once complete, you are ready to work with your school's building manager and principal to begin uploading operating data (energy, water) for your school.

Reflection Questions
  • How does school design and operation impact perceived experience and occupant satisfaction?
  • What measurements can be used to understand occupant satisfaction?
  • How does occupant satisfaction vary between an average school and a green school?
Technology

This lesson was made for students to use their own device to explore the Arc Digital Playground. This lesson can be modified so that the teacher displays the Playground for all students to see and follow along.

Professional Development Opportunities

If you want to learn more about using your school data to teach sustainability and STEM concepts to students, check out the Building Learners program.

Building Learners engages students through real world, project based learning about their school's environmental impact and sustainability. Pairing standards-aligned, hands-on lessons about sustainability, such as this lesson, and a robust building sustainability benchmarking and tracking tool, Arc, this program uses your school building as a laboratory to teach STEM topics as well as engage students in action projects that develop skills and knowledge that can be applied across a range of subject areas and career pathways.

Building Learners comes with five training modules, as well as curriculum and access to a green building professional who can support a teacher's classroom work.

Think the Building Learners program would help take your work to the next level? Visit the Building Learners page to learn more.

Comments

Emily Hurd's picture
Wed, 08/12/2020 - 22:44

Emily Hurd

Pro Reviewer
5

This lesson gives an in-depth overview of the what, how, and why of building performance and occupant satisfaction. Using data from Arc’s sample schools for analysis is a great warm-up for investigations about our own school campus. I recommend doing a solid review of data analysis with students before beginning the lesson. The survey results in Arkscoru could serve as work for students who finish early or a solid next step in a longer investigation.