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Title: A study of energy-related occupancy activities in a sample of monitored domestic buildings in the UK
Author: Cui, J.
ISNI:       0000 0004 5353 097X
Awarding Body: Nottingham Trent University
Current Institution: Nottingham Trent University
Date of Award: 2014
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Domestic energy use is determined by multiple non-technological factors, such as the occupants’ lifestyle and activities, which can even offset the effect from energy-efficiency technologies. Acquiring the actual occupancy data relating to energy use in a uniform format to generate comparable and representative information is challenging. Projects that seek to address this issue, such as the Retrofit for the Future and Building Performance Evaluation programmes of the Technology Strategy Board in the UK, usually require major investment. Long-term monitoring and longitudinal observation are two major features in these major investment projects. The former approach refers to the frequent measurement of indoor/outdoor environments and energy use conducted over at least two heating seasons, in line with the whole-house carbon and energy monitoring protocol of the Energy Saving Trust (2011). The latter approach, longitudinal observation, refers to observations conducted on the same group of individuals over an extended study period of years or decades to examine changes over time (Bryman, 2012). The majority of existing households and associated stakeholders that could potentially benefit from the investigation of energy-related occupancy activities cannot feasibly be involved in projects requiring major investment. The present study seeks to address the issue, identified as a research gap, of how to effectively apply low-cost approaches and transferable techniques in a small-scale study on energy-related occupancy activities. To suit the socio-technical characteristics of the research topic, a mixed methods research approach, advocated by Bryman (2012) and combining quantitative and qualitative strengths, was applied to the processes of data acquisition and analysis. The methodology was enhanced in the course of this research. In line with Yin (2014), a case study approach was adopted in this project that was underpinned by two purposefully selected case study groups. One case study was conducted in the autonomous community of the Hockerton Housing Project Ltd. (HHP), in Southwell Nottinghamshire. The HHP is among the first multi-dwelling, earth-sheltered, self-sufficient ecological housing developments constructed in the UK. Three monitored free-running households featured different family profiles, including a single occupant, an adult couple, and a young couple with children. The other case study was conducted, in partnership with Nottingham City Homes, in two conventionally built and identically retrofitted timber-frame social houses, which were home to two families composed of pensioners. Long-term and longitudinal monitoring schemes were configured and deployed in the case study houses using low-cost and transferable monitoring techniques. Both off-the-shelf products and self-configured equipment were adopted in the monitoring of indoor environmental conditions, power draws and electricity use, and occupancy statuses. Supplementary sociological approaches, including occupancy diaries and interviews, were adopted in accordance with the interview guidance for the occupant evaluation process of the Retrofit for the Future programme (Energy Saving Trust, 2014). Analysis of Variance (ANOVA) and Adaptive Neuro-Fuzzy Inference System (ANFIS) were applied for data analyses as a methodological trial based on different scales of data presentation. The major findings of this empirical study proved the feasibility of conducting a cost-effective study on energy-related occupancy activities by applying long-term and longitudinal monitoring approaches. Within each case study group, the variations in indoor environment and energy use directly resulted from the different activity patterns of each household. Between the two case study groups, the variations also derived from the different building characteristics of house designs, such as the difference made by heavy-weight and light-weight thermal mass. The cross-comparison between the two case studies revealed an aspect that has been overlooked by the building assessment system, regarding low-tech house design featuring heavy-weight thermal mass. The research findings in the retrofitted social house case study are of importance since they enable the participants of retrofitting programmes to access actual information derived from empirical case studies in order to secure both efficiency gains and financial gains.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available