"Often it's a matter of having the right information to maximize a building's full potential."

– Roderick Bates

When we transformed a mid-century industrial building into our studio, we wanted to reduce our energy use as much as possible. 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, so why not see if its strategies could hold up to Philadelphia's hot and humid summers?  
To gauge the effectiveness of this strategy, 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 felt in time and space.

Roast uses pre-populated questions and answers based on building industry standards.

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, humidity, personal activity, air quality and movement, and visual and auditory stimulation. Survey administrators can include any or all of these questions, each of which were developed with ASHRAE standards in mind, into customized surveys. Responses can then be filtered and analyzed directly in the app. This data visualization feature is especially significant since effective POEs tend to record many responses over a broad time period, but often lack a mechanism for quickly and efficiently synthesizing data. Creating a more contained, all-encompassing application allowed us to front-load this workflow—instead performing a rapid survey with a lengthy analysis period, we focused our time and efforts into a tool that facilitates both survey deployment and data analysis.

Survey responses are placed on a building floorplan and can be filtered and analyzed data directly in the app, a feature that addresses a common pain point of many POEs.

Developed by an interdisciplinary team of coders, graphic designers, and researchers, Roast evolved through multiple rounds of rigorous internal tests before it was released for a public beta test in March of 2018. The tool is scheduled for limited commercial release in August 2018 and has already generated some buzz in the architecture community for its potential to ease the process of post-occupancy evaluation. “Sometimes uncomfortable buildings are not a product of poor design but rather a lack of information,” says researcher Roderick Bates, adding that relatively minor adjustments to building systems can greatly improve overall comfort. “But without understanding how people feel, you're in the dark.”