How can we better understand how people experience their workspace?
Roast is a workplace comfort survey developed by KT Innovations. It allows users to assess building comfort by recording perceived temperatures, brightness, noise levels, and more, producing data that can be used to improve building performance and employee comfort.
Developers built the first iteration of Roast in 2015 during our first summer in KieranTimberlake's new studio, a transformed mid-century industrial building. We wanted to reduce our energy use as much as possible with the renovation. That meant adding insulation, replacing the windows and roof, relying more on natural light, and installing efficient mechanical systems. When it came to air conditioning, we stopped short. Our naturally-ventilated building was designed to stay cool before the advent of air conditioning. We decided to see if its passive cooling strategies could hold up to Philadelphia's hot and humid summers.
To gauge the effectiveness of this approach, we developed and deployed a sensor network that recorded the temperature and relative humidity at different stations throughout the studio. While this data gave us a sense of our building's nuances—hot spots, drafty areas, and so on—we quickly realized that we couldn't understand complete building performance without knowing how people actually felt in time and space.
Enter Roast, a web-based survey app that captures how people experience their space. Part of a post-occupancy evaluation (POE) toolkit, Roast measures comfort across a broad range of criteria, including temperature, light, noise, humidity, air quality, and others. Survey administrators can include any or all of these questions (developed according to ASHRAE and other comfort standards) within customized surveys that are sent via email. Responses are automatically mapped to an office floor plan and can be filtered and analyzed directly in the app.
This data visualization feature is significant since many POEs record a lot of responses over a long time period but lack a way to quickly and efficiently synthesize data. With Roast, the data paints a complete picture of how people experience a building and what adjustments owners and facility managers should prioritize to address areas of discomfort. It also offers insights into structural or cooling and heating modifications that could lower a building's carbon footprint and operating costs by as much as 10%.
Developed by an interdisciplinary team of architects, software engineers, and occupant comfort experts, the tool evolved through multiple rounds of rigorous internal and public beta testing. Roast was released for commercial use in August 2018 and has generated buzz in the architecture community for its potential to ease the process of post-occupancy evaluation. The app has been featured in The New York Times, Architect Magazine, Fast Company, and Archinect.
Roderick Bates, Principal at KieranTimberlake explains, “Roast is a practical, everyday tool that addresses an important need for employee engagement. Employees are most productive when satisfaction with their building environment is highest, but creating these conditions requires changing the way employers and building managers do their jobs. Roast fills the gap for a tool designed to engage building inhabitants through the concept of employee comfort.” Learn more about Roast.