An Investigation of the Readability of Building User Guides

    Anderson, Michael
    Baird, George
    Buildings and energy


Building User Guides are intended to inform building occupants of the building systems within their workplace. They are created to describe and document all the necessary information pertaining to the buildings operation, maintenance, management and basic trouble shooting procedures. There is evidence to suggest that the Building User Guides are written at a level that is too technical and too difficult. This paper evaluates how easily building occupants are able to read Building User Guides that have been designed for use in green buildings (where they can contribute to their building sustainability rating). Twenty-three Building User Guides by a range of firms and writers were sampled from all over the country. Their readability level was assessed using the Simple Measure of Gobbledegook (SMOG) as a basic measure of readability, while a second measure, a word frequency program was used to assess the vocabulary needed to read current Building User Guides. A wide variation was found in the readability of these guides. This paper explores the reasons why some rated better than others and highlights their key features.

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