Project Title:

Occupant Indoor Environmental Quality (IEQ) Survey and Building Benchmarking

Occupant surveys are an invaluable source of information regarding occupant satisfaction and workplace effectiveness.

Status (updated 6/20/2014): Ongoing

Funding sources: CBE Industry Consortium, Research Grants

Project Objective

Develop and implement a web-based survey instrument that quantifies how a building is performing from the perspective of its occupants. Create a reporting tool to allow decision makers to benchmark individual buildings against groups of similar buildings in order to make informed management decisions, and to asses the effectiveness of building features and design strategies.

Significance to Industry

While there has been considerable focus on measuring and regulating the resource efficiency of buildings, less attention has been paid to the issue of how well buildings meet their design intent for the occupants. Building occupants represent a wealth of information about how well a building works. The challenge is to collect and analyze this input in a systematic and meaningful manner.

Surveys of occupant satisfaction allow designers, developers, owners, operators and tenants to objectively gauge how well building services and design features are working. This information is especially useful to building owners and tenants interested in optimizing employee productivity and effectiveness.

Research Approach

CBE has developed a web-based survey with an integrated, flexible branching structure, and automated, easy to understand reporting. Its branching structure allows for the collection of more detailed data where appropriate, without burdening all survey respondents with overly detailed or inappropriate questions. The current CBE survey focuses on seven areas of indoor environmental performance, including thermal comfort, air quality, acoustics, lighting, cleanliness, spatial layout, and office furnishings. It has been implemented in over 600 buildings to date, with over 65,000 individual occupant responses (as of October 2012). Additional survey modules have been created to gather data on additional topics such as security, accessibility, transportation, and green building features.

Survey results are accessed via an advanced reporting tool. This reporting tool allows researchers, building owners, and design teams to view and filter data to study specific questions and trends. They may also aggregate data for a collection of buildings to be sorted and viewed by specific attributes such as building type, region, square footage, or other characteristics. It also allows users to mine the survey data to investigate building performance trends.

We are implementing the survey for a number of private and institutional clients on an on-going basis to build up our database of building benchmaking data. We have also implemented a series of surveys in LEED buildings in order to study the relative IEQ performance of these building in comparison to other buildings in the survey database.

Top performing buildings that use the CBE survey are invited to participate in the annual Livable Buildings Awards, which showcase buildings that perform well in terms of sustainability, overall design, and occupant satisfaction.


Schiavon, S. and S. Altomonte, 2014. Influence of factors unrelated to environmental quality on occupant satisfaction in LEED and non-LEED certified buildings. Building and Environment, Volume 77, 148-159.

Altomonte, S. and S. Schiavon, 2013. Occupant satisfaction in LEED and non-LEED certified buildings. Building and Environment, Volume 68, pp: 66-76.

Goins, J., C. Chun and H. Zhang, 2012. User perspectives on outdoor noise in buildings with operable windows. Proceedings of the 7th Windsor Conference: The changing context of comfort in an unpredictable world. Windsor, UK. April 12-15.

Wargocki, P., M. Frontczak, S. Schiavon, J. Goins, E. Arens and H. Zhang H. 2012. Satisfaction and self-estimated performance in relation to indoor environmental parameters and building features. Proceedings of 10th International Conference on Healthy Buildings, Brisbane, Australia. July.

Frontczak, M., S. Schiavon, J. Goins, E. Arens, H. Zhang and P. Wargocki, 2012. Quantitative relationships between occupant satisfaction and aspects of indoor environmental quality and building design. Indoor Air Journal, Volume 22, Issue 2, 119-131. Earlier version in Proceedings of Indoor Air 2011. Austin, TX, June 5-10.

Brager, G., E. Arens, J. Goins, and D. Lehrer. 2011. Learning from buildings: Technologies for measuring, benchmarking and improving performance. Proceedings of USGBC Greenbuild Conference. Toronto. October 4-7.

Baker, L. 2011. What School Buildings Can Teach Us: Post-Occupancy Evaluation Surveys in K-12 Learning Environments. Master of Science in Architecture Thesis, UC Berkeley.

Brager, G. and L. Baker, 2008. Occupant Satisfaction in Mixed-Mode Buildings, Proceedings, Air Conditioning and the Low Carbon Cooling Challenge, Windsor, UK, July.

Abbaszadeh, S., L. Zagreus, D. Lehrer and C. Huizenga, 2006. Occupant Satisfaction with Indoor Environmental Quality in Green Buildings. Proceedings, Healthy Buildings 2006, Vol. III, 365-370, Lisbon, Portugal, June.

Huizenga, C., S. Abbaszadeh, L. Zagreus and E. Arens, 2006.
Air Quality and Thermal Comfort in Office Buildings. Results of a Large Indoor Environmental Quality Survey. Proceedings, Healthy Buildings 2006, Vol. III, 393-397, Lisbon, Portugal, June.

Zagreus, L., Huizenga, C., E. Arens and D. Lehrer, 2004. Listening to the Occupants: A Web-based Indoor Environmental Quality Survey. Indoor Air 2004; 14 (Suppl 8): pp. 65–74.

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Lehrer, D., et. al., 2006. LEED Post-Occupancy Evaluation: Taking Responsibility for the Occupants. (long version) BetterBricks USGBC Workshops, Portland and Seattle, November.

Huizenga, C., et. al., 2005. LEED Post Occupancy Evaluation: Taking Responsibility for Occupants. (short version) Greenbuild Expo and Conference 2005, Atlanta, November

Occupant Survey Reporting Tool

Results from CBE’s Occupant IEQ Survey can be viewed immediately via an on-line reporting tool.

Cheasapeake Bay Foundation

CBE has implemented the IEQ survey in over 600 buildings, for industry partners and for specific research applications.

Sample IEQ survey results

Results from CBE Occupant Surveys have been published in numerous publications and industry reports.