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 3/22/2017): Ongoing

Funding sources: CBE Industry Consortium, Research Grants

Project Objective

The main objective of this project is to provide and deploy a web-based survey tool that allows building stakeholders to assess the performance and success of the design of their space. This tool facilitates the acquisition of accurate and reliable feedback from the building occupants (i.e., the people who actually exist and interact with the space’s environment). This feedback creates an open-dialogue between the building’s occupants, managers, owners, etc.

In addition to the surveying tool, this project aims to provide users with an interacting reporting tool that allows decision makers to easily evaluate and identify problem areas and design solutions to improve occupant experience. Further, the reporting tool allows users to benchmark their space against similar buildings in one of the largest building databases in the world. These diagnostic compatibilities allow building stakeholders to make informed management decisions, and to assess the effectiveness of building features and design strategies.

Finally, this tool and report can also be used to fulfill requirements for a number of building certification programs (e.g., LEED).

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 actually works. The challenge is to collect and analyze this input in a systematic and meaningful manner.

This survey and interactive reporting tool allows 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 environments that truly support an occupant’s goals and needs

Research Approach

CBE developed a web-based survey with an integrated, flexible branching structure, and automated, easy to understand interactive reporting tool. 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 1,000 buildings to date, with over 100,000 individual occupant responses (as of March 2017). Additional survey modules have been created to gather data on additional topics such as security, accessibility, transportation, and green building features.

Survey results are viewed via an advanced interactive reporting tool. This reporting tool allows researchers, building owners, and design teams to view data to study specific questions and trends.

We are implementing the survey for a number of private and institutional clients on an on-going basis. At times we have focused mass deployments of surveys to study specific building types and features. For example, in the past we 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. Currently we are deploying surveys to a number of buildings with radiant systems to capture metrics on buildings with these systems and compare their IEQ performance to those buildings that do not have radiant systems. This is also allowing us to create the largest database of radiant buildings worldwide.

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., B. Yang, Y. Donner, W. C.-V. Chang, and W.W. Nazaroff. 2016. Thermal comfort, perceived air quality, and cognitive performance when personally controlled is used by typically acclimatized persons. Indoor Air, 1-13.

Gall, E.T., T. Cheung, I. Luhang, and S. Schiavon. 2016. Real-time monitoring of personal exospore to carbon dioxide. Building and Environment, 104.

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., C. Huizenga, 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.


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.

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 1,000 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.