Exploring the social performance of buildings

When it comes to quality the focus shifts to the well-being of occupants and other sustainable factors.

Vienna (AS prm, 04.12.2014)
Building

Feeling safe and comfortable in buildings. © iStockphoto LP

The Oxford English Dictionary defines "quality" as "the degree of excellence of something". The quality management standard ISO 9001, of course, goes into greater detail. However, what quality is, how it is defined and eventually assessed essentially depends on the task to be accomplished.

Hence, clearly defined processes and methods are of utmost importance to ensure that the results are conclusive, traceable as well as comparable. That especially applies to the assessment of the quality of buildings. It covers not only planning, materials used and construction but also more and more sustainability criteria so that the focus also is on the social performance of buildings in addition to ecological and economic aspects.

The European standard EN 16309, published as an Austrian standard on 15 November 2014 was developed to assess the social dimension. Taking account of the functionality and technical properties of buildings, it defines special procedures and requirements for assessing social performance.

The standard can be applied to all types of new and existing buildings and considers the following categories for assessments:

  • accessibility,
  • adaptability,
  • health and comfort,
  • impacts on the neighbourhood,
  • maintenance, as well as
  • safety and security.

The categories "sourcing of materials and services" and "stakeholder involvement" are to be added in future.

The standard, however, does not lay down quality grades, classes or reference values. They may be defined in other documents, such as the specifications of the building owner or national legislation.

Thus, the standard is limited to:

  • a description of the object of assessment,
  • the system boundaries applicable at the building level,
  • a list of indicators and methods for application,
  • the presentation of results in reporting and communication,
  • the data required for application, and 
  • verification.

The assessment of social performance significantly differs from the assessment of economic and ecological aspects in that it requires both quantitative and descriptive approaches.

Bibliography

ÖNORM EN 16309 Sustainability of construction works - Assessment of social performance of buildings - Calculation methodology
ÖNORM EN 15643 Sustainability of construction works - Assessment of buildings; Parts 1 - 4