Occupant survey results
An occupant satisfaction survey was conducted in February 2011, using the Building Use Studies (BUS) methodology. The questionnaire-based survey covers 46 comfort variables, including design, comfort, lighting, noise, productivity, health and needs. The sample of 33 respondents represented 90 per cent of those who work in the building.
Figure 3 shows the overall picture of the building by the 12 summary variables, compared with a benchmark dataset of similar UK buildings.
Occupants report that the building performs well on design, needs and on its image to visitors. In other areas the building performs close to UK norms: temperature and air quality in summer, lighting and overall comfort and health can be considered typical.
The occupants' comments reflect the statistical results, with positive remarks about the building's design and image, but more critical comments on comfort factors. For example, the underfloor heating is perceived as too warm. Typical comments on the survey were: "Too hot in summer and too cold in winter", "Heating and ventilation in offices and to a lesser degree meeting rooms is very unsatisfactory", and "Large windows let light in but do not keep the building warm in winter or cool in summer."
The scores for lighting overall are good with little glare reported. The ratings for natural light are also good, which is quite rare. Other positive responses related to the bright open-plan nature of the building, the ease of access, and the pleasant working conditions.
Given its mixture of activities the results are relatively good. The main downsides are the wintertime comfort conditions. The building is also regarded as too noisy, but staff are seemingly tolerant for the most part because they understand the building's purpose.
Performance in use
Despite its problem with high energy consumption, the building is performing reasonably well. Howard Hammond, of Stoke-on-Trent City Council property department, admits that the building has taken some time to settle down.
"We were desperate to open by January 2009, but we were rushing to finish the building in the run up to Christmas," said Hammond. "We accepted the building, got it painted, and moved in while we were still trying to commission it, and so commissioning didn't really take place properly."
Support from the project team dissipated very quickly after handover. "It was poor to be honest," said Hammond. "People had moved on to other projects." As a consequence the property team have been re-setting sensors on wind-assisted ventilators, trying to find the most appropriate settings for the underfloor heating, and attempting to resolve the problems with the BMS that won't record all the pulses from the electrical sub-meters.
"We've addressed that with correction factor in the software, so the increments are now the same," said Hammond, "but even the readings weren't the same, as the meters weren't calibrated properly."
Overall the lighting controls for the open-plan areas tend to lead to a default to on. The switches themselves lack any form of labelling and some detective work is needed to determine the link between switches and lamps.
Some of the mechanically cooled rooms changed use after handover, which means that the DX air-conditioning system is being used differently. The system wasn't initially on the Trend BMS, but now a link has been made. The downside of this is that the cooling cannot be turned on and off by the occupants. It won't stay on overnight like it used to, but staff have no control at all, which is unhelpful.
Overall, the library has been a great success in rejuvenating the centre of Stoke. Library visitor numbers have doubled, and people seem genuinely pleased with building.
The article is based on data analysis carried out by Mark Katatumba of Arup, funded by the Carbon Trust. Thanks to BBLB Architects for supplying photographs for this article.