Evaluation of the Built Environment: Lessons from Program Evaluation
For some 20 years now, behavioral scientists have been building up a body of knowledge in the area of program evaluation. This knowledge has found application recently in the many federally funded social action programs--most of which now require some assessment of their success and efficiency. In recent years, evaluation has become a major concern in the area of environmental design. Planners are now concerned with the performance of built environments with respect to the behavioral and cognitive goals of their designs. It would be wise for such design evaluators to ask what advice is available from the program evaluators who have had a number of years of experience in evaluation research. Social action programs and planned environments are both intended to influence behavior in specific ways. The problems of evaluation in assessing the behavioral effects of social action programs and built environments are similar in a number of ways. This paper reviews these similarities. Important questions are raised and some specific advice is given to design evaluators concerning the purposes of evaluation, design goals, data collection plans, measurement techniques, cooperation, and dissemination of findings. This advice should help environmental evaluators to avoid some of the many pitfalls that have plagued program evaluation attempts.