Low-carbon refurbishments: How passive or active are technologies, users and their interaction?

Panel: 8. Dynamics of consumption

This is a peer-reviewed paper.

Authors:
Marina Topouzi
, ECI, Oxford - Environmental Change Institute, United Kingdom

Abstract

Current regulatory and other policy trends in housing refurbishments relating to low-carbon performance standards involve complex technologies and systems as well as innovative solutions to achieve the UK’s demanding targets. Performance indicators of domestic refurbishments in general tend to rely heavily upon assumptions of ideal performance of materials, combined systems installed to high standards under specific conditions, and ideal occupant behaviour in operating and interacting with them. Previous studies exploring the influence of socio-technical factors on the UK’s domestic energy use highlight that one of the main reasons for limited success in achieving energy targets is the lack of understanding of how people interact with domestic technology. Using a sample of nine low-carbon whole house retrofits in the UK this paper explores occupants' interaction with heating and ventilation measures as designed, installed and operated. The paper discusses the central phenomenon of interaction within three key areas: technical aspects (building fabric and systems), occupant (user) and interaction (energy use and operation). Using an interdisciplinary methodological approach qualitative and quantitative empirical data were explored together, cross-checking occupants’ ‘doings’ and ‘sayings’. The paper presents preliminary evidence-based findings showing the extent to which active measures as designed and installed have fostered direct interaction involving active users, as well as the tendency of passive low-carbon measures designed and installed for passive users to involve indirect interactions with active users in practice. The analysis of findings identifies significant factors in combined active and passive systems that are relevant to everyday practices of heat and ventilation interaction.

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