Revitalisation of a historic building through performance evaluative research into workplace environmental conditions

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Peer-Reviewed Research
  • SDG 13
  • SDG 11
  • Abstract:

    English: Following the centennial celebrations of the University of the Free State in 2004, the need was identified to initiate a program according to which the image and future development of the university as a whole could be assessed. This included optimising the use of existing physical resources and prioritising on proposed new development. As part of this program, the historic Main Building was identified for revitalisation through an adaptive reuse program into office space for the executive management of the university. Completed in July 2005, the refurbished facility now provides an updated approach to the concept of workplace by providing a mix of private and open plan offices. In an attempt to introduce the concept of performance evaluative research in workplace environments to students of architecture at the University of the Free State, the revitalised Main Building workplace environment was regarded as a suitable example. Performance evaluative research in workplace environments is a form of evidence-based research which aims to assess the functionality and serviceability levels of a specific facility on the basis of its ability to support and facilitate diverse work styles, as well as the user-needs and -requirements associated with it. The evaluation process was conducted according to the principles of an Investigative-level Post-Occupancy Evaluation (POE) study, and aimed to assess the impact of stimuli from the workplace environment on the ability of users to optimally perform and accomplish work-related tasks. The methodology according to which information for this POE study was collected consisted of various surveys. This included an activity survey, an activity duration survey, a communication survey, and a movement survey. The POE study lasted one working day, with the various mapping surveys undertaken simultaneously in 15-minute periods with 5-minute rest and preparation intervals between them. Data collected in this manner thus provides a comprehensive view of all aspects pertaining to work performance and accomplishment in the specific office environment. The survey also included questionnaires distributed to all occupants of the workplace with a return rate of 86%. Conclusions drawn from results of this study have indicated the response of users to the new workplace environment in terms of their perception of the impact of the overall work environment on their ability to concentrate and perform work-related tasks. In this regard problems related to limited or inconvenient access to office resources and problems related to poor thermal comfort (specifically with regards to the penetration of direct sunlight and lack of control over air-conditioning) occurred with a similar frequency (N = 48; f = 0.15). Results of this study will: • serve as feedback for the continued alignment of the University’s physical resources with its dynamic resource management strategy — ; and • contribute to a database on work performance characteristics in South Africa.