Architecture is now more than ever dominated by scientific method. This paper examines what is really at stake when designing sustainable architecture. It is a methodological study and focused on science as understood in Post Occupancy Evaluation (POE) of sustainable buildings, specifically school buildings. Questions raised in this paper include the very real problem of designing for children’s comfort and education in school architecture, but also much wider issues than simply those of the design of children’s environments.

Children's ways of knowing, thinking and feeling, represent the antithesis of what might be considered reliable feedback about the performance of a building. Children are not considered to have the same status as adult human beings; the truth of their experience, their understanding of reality, the reliability of their data, is in question. Diverse ways of constructing knowledge are recognized by researchers, even in the field of construction, but even from the perspective of contemporary architectural theory, working with children tends to be seen as the extreme of what is possible in the co-production of knowledge. Children's contribution and their right to research has dubious significance for many, but the problem exposes a conflict between different world views at stake in design for a community, especially a community as extensive as that for a school, and for scientific method which is at the forefront of research in sustainable design and building evaluation.

Green or sustainable schools are an important site from which to explore the broad questions of changing social behaviors, inclusivity and difference–as well as the more usual reductions in energy efficiency and innovation in material production. Building performance studies, including post-occupancy evaluations (POE), are increasingly taking into account not only the performance of buildings, in terms of energy and water efficiency, but also the behavioral and social dimensions of sustainability, in order to assess the actuality of sustainable buildings, rather than simply design intent. Within the field of construction research, scholars are increasingly challenging methods adopted to collect performance data, questioning tools and measures, and highlighting the complexity of the impact of any building in its environment, including its social or economic contexts. Innovative ethnographic and art-based research methodologies are being adopted as examples of new ways to examine building users' relationship to their environments and this has included building contractors' experiences (Pink et al 2010). Nevertheless, these are experimental studies with little exploration as yet, and little impact on the industry and professions.

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Author notes

1. Assistant Professor, Iowa State University College of Design,