The Marshall Building, Post Occupancy Evaluation


The building

LSE’s new Marshall Building (MAR) opened in the fourth quarter of 2021. With its strong urban presence addressing Lincoln’s Inn Fields and Portsmouth Street, its connecting views through the building across the Ground Floor, and its associated pedestrianisation and landscaping of Portsmouth Street, MAR has redefined and enhanced this part of London and the LSE campus.

Internally MAR provides significant teaching spaces, informal learning areas, a café, and homes for the Departments of Management, Accounting, and Finance, the Financial Markets Group, the Systemic Risk Centre, and the Marshall Institute. The two Lower Ground Floors accommodate a multi-purpose sports hall, squash courts, dynamic weights room, arts and music practice rooms. These facilities, and a dance studio on the Ground Floor, are run by the LSE Student Union (LSESU). There are also multiple external landscaped terraces that lead from MAR's upper floors, giving access to outdoor space and panoramic views of London to building occupants and all LSE students.

The evaluation

Following their usual practice, LSE Estates commissioned an independent Post Occupancy Evaluation (POE) of MAR from the perspective of building users. This was conducted in two parts: in November to December 2022, research with a cross-section of the building’s ‘end-users’ – students, academics, and professional services staff; and in February 2023, research with representatives of the key teams who run the building and its services. The POE was undertaken by specialised building use researchers: ZZA Responsive User Environments.

Whose views? The data sources

Following the established approach and methods for POE of LSE buildings, the research centred on systematic, structured engagement. This was mostly done through interviews, to capture users’ experience of MAR that reflects the building's plan, sectional and functional variations. All participants' input was voluntary and reported anonymously.

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Cross section of building
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Cross section of building

End-user perspectives

Based on structured interviews with 27 ‘residents’ on 3rd – 9th Floors – academics, professional services staff (PSS) and PhD students, all occupying workspace in a varied range of positions on the floor plan. The content covered their workspace, plus the building overall, including the teaching and other facilities below the 3rd Floor.

Based on structured interviews with 17 non-residents using informal space on the Ground, 1st and 2nd Floors. This content covered MAR’s social, study and teaching spaces, and the building overall, plus any experience of spaces above 2nd Floor and facilities below the Ground Floor.

Based on self-completion questionnaires from 13 students using the Students' Union sports and arts facilities. This content covered the LSESU facilities and spaces, plus the building overall, any experience by the students of the spaces and facilities on the Ground Floor and above.

Building services perspectives

Based on interviews with 14 members of LSE services divisions that run the building and its services. The content covered the participants' respective knowledge of MAR as it relates to their roles, plus their experience of the building overall.

The key vantage points covered: Catering; Porterage; Security; Cleaning; Data and Technology Services, including AV; Maintenance; Helpdesk; Carbon Reduction.

Data inputs

The end-user evaluation comprised:

end-user evaluation
151 rateable evaluative questions on component aspects of the building 
Multiple questions on individuals’ knowledge and usage of MAR’s provisions
Questions inviting open-ended narrative responses.

For the aspects evaluated by end-users, participants were asked to select the code – Positive, OK or Negative (or equivalent) – that best reflected their view of that aspect’s performance. Their narrative comments associated with the codes they selected were also documented and analysed, affording insight into the reasoning and sentiment behind their ratings.

In evaluating a multi-programmed building like MAR where different people engage with and use the building in different ways, numerous questions do not apply to everyone. Where a lower number than the total end-user base of 57 participants answered a given question, this was always shown.

As the service providers have distinctive knowledge of the building relating to their roles, their perspectives are inevitably aligned to their respective responsibilities. As these involve non-overlapping aspects of MAR, this ‘apples and pears’ data from the service providers was not aggregated.

Data scope

Data scope
MAR compared with previous LSE building or other building used most 
Arriving and entering MAR
Circulating in the building
MAR 3rd – 9th Floors: Environmental comfort, work / study area, meetings
MAR Ground – 2nd Floor: Open / informal space, lecture / teaching spaces
MAR Lower Ground: LSESU facilities
Building amenities
Cycle parking
WCs and showers
Security and safety
Facilities Management, Maintenance and Sustainability
Support in using MAR: Moving in, User Guide and Building Management
Meeting high level aims
Overall effects

Presenting the data

End users

For all aspects evaluated by end-users, three types of outputs are provided:

Quantitative results as percentages of responses to each question, with graphs showing a visual profile of aggregated net responses to the given question.

Classification of the quantitative outputs according to the following high thresholds of user satisfaction:

Presenting the data
Major Success: 80%+ of responses rate the aspect as Positive 
Success: 80%+ of responses rate the aspect as Positive or OK
Issue: >20% of responses rate the aspect as Negative.

Qualitative responses associated with the users’ respective ratings.

Service providers

This data is thematic.


POE results

Overall profile of response

A high majority of the end-user evaluations were rated Positive – 72%, followed by 15% OK (or Mixed / Neutral where applicable), and 13% Negative.

Overall-Profile-of-Response V6 (002)
Profile of endorsing user feedback


Achieving the LSE's goals

The evaluation of the myriad components of MAR’s design and realization as positive is endorsing. But a building is more than its component elements, and at least as important is the strong suite of results on MAR in meeting high level strategic aims.

The POE evidences MAR’s positive impact on the campus, and in fulfilling the LSE’s goals for educational enhancement, and appeal to students and staff.

Achieving LSEs goals V2 (002)
Feedback from end-users on how MAR achieves the LSE's goals

This feedback from MAR’s end-users converges with the service providers' assessment. In respect of LSE objectives, their most relevant assessment concerns the quality of the building’s teaching spaces:

“The building probably has the best rooms on campus for teaching. It’s at the forefront of the technology for what the LSE has provided for several years. It showcases what the AV team can do in terms of design and implementation. This is our gold standard, and it’s nice to have a space to showcase our aims across the campus … and to show visiting universities.”

This view correlates with the strong user endorsement of the teaching space, with a majority of Major Successes. 

End-user evaluation of teaching space

Major Successes:

  • Access
  • Capacity
  • Light
  • Sound – lack of noise disturbance
  • Sound – can hear clearly
  • Furniture – seating comfort
  • Layout – clear view to presenter
  • Layout – facilitates teacher engagement with students
  • AV – easy to connect to
  • Look and feel – conducive to purpose
  • Look and feel – positive image for LSE.

The remaining four aspects of teaching space were evaluated as Successes. Notably, the end-user evaluation of teaching space identified no Issues.

Favourite things

To identify the main ways that the MAR meets users’ aspirations, participants were asked to cite their ‘favourite thing’ about the building.

Non-residents highlighted the building’s architecture, sports facilities and study environments (in that order), while residents mostly cited their workspace and its provision for community and privacy, followed by provisions for students, and then MAR’s Ground Floor.

The numerous other aspects of MAR that were also cited as favourite things reflect the findings' many further Major Successes, and users’ positive user sentiment towards the building.

Favourite things Non-residents
Favourite things about MAR (non residents)


Favourite things Building residents
Favourite things about MAR (building residents)


User sentiment for MAR – atypically positive

Whereas users' comments in Post Occupancy Evaluations are frequently oriented to criticisms, the response to MAR is striking for the extent of warm enthusiasm that participants expressed. The narrative quotations below, from a larger array of endorsing comments, convey the building’s appeal.

Non-resident students’ comments

“It’s like a symbol of LSE, because when I first came to campus this is the building that I took most pictures of. Also Centre Building, because it looks very great in the evening from outside. I come here [MAR] just to have lunch – I love to walk across the campus from Old Building.”

“The design – the interior and the feel: relaxing and focus. You can choose according to your moods and tasks and what you want to get out.”

“The positivity – the energy it’s creating, the buzz from events, and the home of sport on campus.”

Building residents’ comments

3rd Floor upwards:

“It’s helped create community in the Department in the central square and kitchen. We have conversations daily.”

“The general feeling of sitting in my office – it’s great for work: light, bright and spacious.” 

“The undergraduate common room, and the interaction with students in a more relaxed environment. And the sense of ownership by the undergraduate team and students.”

Ground  2nd Floors:

“The student spaces and teaching rooms are rammed by people working individually and in small and larger groups.”

“It would definitely be the student space on Ground, 1st and 2nd, and the sports facilities. That’s great. It’s a great building for students and teaching – which is also for students.”

“The Great Hall, for the flexibility of the space – it offers so many opportunities.” 

“Do I have to choose one? When you enter MAR it has real impact. It feels modern and welcoming. The 1st and 2nd Floors are fantastic for students to work and connect as classmates, with well thought out seating and how it’s arranged.

Overall impact:

“Having been in the Old Building, we all feel quite lucky. I go home saying my job has improved because of being in this building.”

“It’s an incredible privilege to work in a building like this.”

Service providers’ comments

The service providers showed a similar attraction to MAR. They too are building users, and like the building occupants and student users, they are positively influenced by a building they find pleasing to come to and be in. The comments below show MAR’s motivating effect. They evidence the building’s role in promoting productivity.

“It’s very inviting and receptive and a nice place to come to work.“

“The Grand Hall is grand. I like it, and I feel excellent about what I do.”

“The space is very inviting to walk in. It’s very spacious, and it’s set up in the right manner – you won’t get lost. Staff feel wow when they walk in. It reflects in their attitude to care for the building. They ask me ‘What else would you like me to do?’”

The positive effect includes FM staff feeling they are part of the building’s life, and seeing their work as purposeful in influencing users’ experience:

“It’s a much better work life. The day goes quicker. You’re in a place you want to stay in – for evenings and events, for students and staff, parents at graduation. I love it, the interaction, taking part.”

“I can see how the departments and people really enjoy it. The building is amazing architecturally, with the Great Hall and the amount of people. And I like the light. It shows that catering is respected and part of the function of the building, and in the space that students enjoy. It’s always busy without being crowded, And I feel proud to show other universities around.”

Other standout features

Meeting space

MAR’s meeting space was entirely evaluated with Major Successes: including design of the meeting rooms, provision to book rooms, and the informal spaces being effective for meetings

The evaluation of the informal / open space on Ground – 2nd Floors is notably positive, with Major Successes on:

  • Ease of circulation
  • General thermal comfort
  • Light – for ambience / mood
  • Look and feel – image for LSE
  • Flexibility for events.

Five other aspects of MAR’s Ground – 2nd Floors are identified as Successes, with one aspect just crossing the threshold as an Issue: Sound level for study – 21% Negative. However, the evaluation also evidenced the choice of study space now  available on campus – the LSE building where non-resident participants in the POE study work / study most often (if not in MAR), or the LSE building where they work / study second most often (if they mostly work / study in MAR) is the Library – 47%, then MAR – 20%, then Centre Building – 17%. This result evidences the relevant context of other buildings on the LSE campus, the standard of which reflects the result of Estates' enhancement to provide functionality and appeal.

The end user rating of Furniture on MAR's Ground – 2nd Floors as a Success eclipses the different perspectives of participant groups. The positive rating by building residents who engage with the furniture more visually and ephemerally than non-resident students is tempered by critique from the latter who use it more intensively. This mostly concerns the orthogonal back to seat arrangement on some of the Ground Floor seating, and the absence of backs on others, which users find uncomfortable. The service providers also critique the Ground Floor furniture as heavy and unwieldy to move, posing a challenge given the frequent reconfiguration of the Great Hall to accommodate the many events that this space attracts.

Student Union facilities

The MAR’s sports and arts facilities are transformative for the LSE's campus, and the POE identifies Major Successes in this zone:

  • Thermal comfort
  • Sound levels 
  • Equipment 
  • Effective flexibility for varied activities 
  • Image for LSE.

Of the remaining aspects here, six are Successes, and three are Issues, with the POE feedback including pointers for action: a stronger visual signal on the Ground Floor to the facilities below; more seating; improved wayfinding and storage; and CCTV to assist on oversight where sightlines are lacking.

3rd – 9th Floors

The evaluation of MAR’s upper floors has a strong positive cast. The Major Successes include:

  • The space facilitates focus and community as required 
  • Look and feel of occupants' work area 

These are important validations. Of particular note is the interest that academic office occupants expressed in provision for collegial space in the departmental environment. This indicates a cultural shift that is aligned to evolving post-pandemic norms.

Other amenities

MAR’s amenities are strongly endorsed, with Major Successes on the café (albeit numerous participants critiqued it being too pricey), the outdoor terraces contributing to students' experience of the building (albeit 22% had never been on them, and numbers reported not knowing how to access them), and the bench on the MAR’s Portsmouth Street façade contributing to experience of LSE’s campus. Whilst most participants had not yet sat on this bench, it still prompted enthusiastic comment from both those who had used it and those who had just viewed it in use.

Non-resident students

“It’s one of the best places to sit. It’s on the route in from the tube, and you get to meet pretty much everyone you know. It’s surprisingly nice. You have a very high likelihood of meeting people.” 

“You just want to find a place to talk to a friend.”

Building occupants

“It’s amazing. Sitting there with a drink from the George [pub opposite].”

“It keeps me on campus.”

I’ve never used it, but I see students sitting there – it’s good.”

This feedback is instructive in signaling the positive impact of inserting well judged, useful ‘moments’ in LSE’s campus realm. 

FM, Maintenance and Sustainability

The POE was highly endorsing of the MAR as an operational building, with end user Major Successes on: the building seeming well maintained; all areas that participants use kept clean; and waste collection convenient to use.

The latter result is notable in signalling the influence of cultural evolution. Whereas the POE of the New Academic Building in 2009 (the first evaluation commissioned by LSE Estates) evidenced considerable occupant resistance to the then new strategy of removing waste bins from offices, the MAR POE showed that occupants respond to this mode as entirely normative now.

The one end-user Issue relates to awareness of environmental aims in MAR’s design, to which 35% replied Negative, with a further 35% who said  ‘sort of’.

Sustainability and thermal experience

The proceeding point relates to the POE findings on thermal comfort. General thermal experience in the open / informal space on Ground – 2nd Floors was evaluated as a Major Success, and the same aspect in the teaching spaces a Success. On the Lower Ground Floors thermal experience was also evaluated as a Major Success.

In contrast, a number of Issues were identified regarding thermal comfort on the departmental floors:

  • Overall thermal comfort
  • Temperature in your work / study area mostly at the right level now [winter 2022]
  • Temperature in your work / study area was mostly at the right level in summer
  • Draughts
  • Enough control over thermal conditions in the space/s where you work or study.

In part these Issues relate to shared offices that lack individual user control; in part they express perceptions of the control mechanism itself:

“There’s none whatsoever in shared offices, and I’m told that the dials in the individual offices don’t do much.“

“Yes and no, because the thermostat thingy is quite useless.”

“I don’t understand what the control does, how it works. But it’s not been so cold yet.”

Countering any notion that ‘users always complain’ about internal environmental conditions, the same sample of participants rated control over lighting in their work or study area as a Major Success.

The feedback on thermal comfort on 3rd – 9th Floors reflects a gap in the respective views of occupants on the one hand, and service providers on the other. The latter suggest a lack of end-user understanding or acceptance as the heart of the matter.

The relevant FM participants reported that whilst end-users have effective control in being able to move their room setting 2 or 3 degrees each way from the pre-set level of 20°, not everyone understands the range nor its adjustment.

The control process is explained as follows:

For energy efficiency, the building is heated to 18°C and kept at that level. When an occupant enters the room, the PIR in the room activates the actuator in the trench and brings the heating up to 20°C. There is a thermostat that occupants can move to raise the temperature to c.23°C or lower it to 17 / 18°C. However, it takes about an hour to get from 18 to 20, and some people expect it to reach 20 instantly, and some leave the room soon after arriving, causing the temperature to drop back to 18°C, with the process to increase the temperature level having to start over again when they re-enter. And some users feel cold because they wear light clothing irrespective of the weather.

Further, some individuals are reported as bringing in their own heaters, which is both contrary to the LSE's sustainability objectives, as well as preventing the building from operating correctly, as it causes the BMS [Building Management System] to read a higher temperature than has been reached by the heating system.

These findings point to the relevance of communicating the School’s net zero carbon aims, and its implications, and fostering appreciation by the notable numbers of users who report the upper floors of MAR as being too cold that appropriate occupant dress is the responsible way to manage this.

Overall positive view

The remaining sets of questions (barring movement round the building) resulted in a mix of Major Successes, Successes and Issues. The feedback for these was mostly Positive or OK (entirely so for IT), and end users concluded their interviews with the verdict of Major Success on being pleased with MAR overall.

Students in the Great Hall of the Marshall Building


Pointers for better alignment

The evaluation identified MAR’s weakest link as its circulation.

The question set on vertical circulation identified Issues in all aspects, bar lift travel time. This encompassed: Clarity on where to enter the stairs; Look and feel of the staircases making them pleasant to use; and Reliability, Capacity: and Waiting time for the lifts.

Most aspects of MAR’s general circulation were also identified as end-user issues: Whilst some felt navigating the building was intuitive at first and it seemed easy for other people to find their way round with internal signage effective, others commented on this signage: lettering that users need to get up close to in order to read, and the nature of the floor plan which is not necessarily intuitive. Action already taken by the time of the research with service providers includes the larger signage that had already been installed on the Ground Floor to indicate the position of the WCs, and this change is reported as working very effectively.

Service providers also reported challenges in MAR’s circulation, associated with the intensity of service required to support events and catering in the Great Hall. This necessitates considerable movement of furniture, AV equipment and catering supplies both for storage purposes in the basement and for access to and from the kitchen which is located on the Mezzanine.

From learning to action

The purpose of a Post Occupancy Evaluation (POE) is threefold:

Purpose of POE
Establishing what is working well, so this can be maintained and repeated as appropriate
Identifying scope for improvement in the completed building
Identifying relevant steers for the design and specification of future projects.

MAR’s many achievements give important validation of design and provisions that LSE users welcome and value. These are important to maintain and incorporate in future projects.  Most issues that were identified in the building’s initial operational phase are reported as having been remedied in the defects period, with a few ongoing issues concerning sensors, automatic doors and acoustic attentuation which are currently in hand.

The building has achieved or exceeded almost all its targets in relation to sustainability, including its better energy performance relative to the Energy Performance Certificate (EPC); Year 1 output energy data aligned with exemplary level criteria; Year 1 output water data relative to exemplary level criteria (not as good as forecast, but better than LSE campus overall); and CO2 emissions (better than the EPC).

There is also scope to close the gap on the minority of aspects where the feedback points both to useful, feasible tweaks in MAR, and applying the POE learning to future LSE projects. To this end, action will be taken on the following:

Disconnect between stairs serving teaching and academic office levels unfavourable

  • Allocate another express lift in the Marshall Building to serve levels 3-7, to supplement the one already provided.
  • Future projects to consider on connected vertical circulation throughout the building. 

Popularity and versatility of the Great Hall impacting on student use of the space for ad hoc study, as well as a high requirement for staff support on activities like moving furniture and setting up AV.

A view to be taken on:

  • Distributing events across LSE campus facilities, to optimise the use of good facilities in buildings other than MAR and to reduce the current high level of reconfiguration in the Great Hall’ impacting on both its predicability as space for students' use, and replication of service effort when events may suitably be held elsewhere.
  • More definition of the bookable areas within the Great hall, involving more limited zones to reduce impact on day to day usage.
  • Replanning the default furniture configuration in the Great Hall to better facilitate events with reduced disruption to primary activity and less requirement for staff support.
  • Regular ongoing communication between all service teams whose work impinges on other service lines, to minimise resource time and effort in delivering fluent, coordinated support.
  • On future projects consider more fully the potential use of spaces during the project briefing and design stage to future-proof for the optimal support of the space in use.
  • Storage space required for furniture when reconfigured in different modes.  

Informal furniture range: user comfort

  • Of the range of seating options in the MAR's informal areas, the types without backs, or with backs at right angles to the seats, are reported as least favoured.  On future projects, prioritise design for comfortable working in informal study zones.

Some office users find the winter internal temperatures too cold

  • Undertake further investigations into the heating systems to ensure operational performance as intended. 
  • Generally promote awareness and understanding of MAR’s environmental design, to poise users for fuller comfort in using the building.
  • Specifically encourage users not to use portable electric heaters as this confuses the building management system and turns off the heating, and to wear weather-appropriate clothing.

Some users were unaware of facilities provided within the building including the sports and recreation facilities below the Ground Floor.

  • Promote the building user guide which includes information about the building and available facilities and collborate with the Students' Union which runs the sports and recreation facilities  to promote these facilities. 

About this report

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The POE of the Marshall Building was conducted by specialist building use researchers ZZA Responsive User Environments who also authored this report.