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Title: Applying social practice theory to contemporary working practices in sustainable office buildings : implications for the performance gap
Author: King, Louise Margaret
ISNI:       0000 0004 7967 5173
Awarding Body: University of the West of England
Current Institution: University of the West of England, Bristol
Date of Award: 2019
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The UK Government has committed to an 80% reduction of Greenhouse Gas (GHG) against 1990 levels by 2050. Widening understandings of the environmental impact of the built environment have fuelled debates around how the environmental performance of buildings should be approached. The UK non-domestic building sector presents a significant challenge within the field of environmental performance of buildings and an imperative to improve performance has led to the emergence of green or sustainable building as a long-term solution. Sustainably designed buildings are increasingly present within the non-domestic building sector, however issues of discrepancy between environmental performance design targets, such as energy and water use, and actual 'in-use' performance have been widely reported and researched. The difference between predicted and operational building performance is termed the 'performance gap'. Narrowing the performance gap is not limited to addressing technological, physical and economic aspects associated with design, but extends to social and psychological considerations. This research focuses on the performance gap with particular reference to building occupants and operational energy use. The dominant approaches to understanding the role of building occupants in the performance gap are situated within the disciplines of economics and psychology. Individuals are placed at the centre of analysis with a focus on changing behaviour. This research reframes the approach to understanding occupants, applying sociological theories of social practice and shifting focus from individuals to the collective actions or 'practices' occupants are engaged in. Thus, the focus of the research is not evaluating occupant behaviour as an approach to understand the impact of office building occupants on the performance gap, but evaluating the impact of the social practices office workers are engaged in within office buildings; the contemporary working practices. This research provides a conceptualisation of contemporary working practices that underpin the empirical study. Contemporary working practices in three BREEAM Excellent certified office buildings are then evaluated through the lens of social practice theory and implications for energy use and the performance gap are appraised. Research findings present novel insights into contemporary working practices and their implications for energy use, which may inform future office design and improve the efficiency of current sustainably designed office buildings. Implications for reframing the analysis of occupants in the performance gap are drawn out, and important subtleties of practice are revealed which impact on design for contemporary working. Issues of unpredictability of occupancy, multiple device use, shifts in peak energy use, design for functionality, handover and commissioning, standards and norms and cultural shifts emerge from this research. The conceptualised working practices underpinning this research form a key contribution to the body of knowledge around the performance gap. This research challenges established approaches to the performance gap in respect of occupants and demonstrates that understandings of webs of interlocking practices provides deeper and broader insights into how ways of living and working may be rendered more sustainable. The research provides new knowledge on how social practice theory can be applied to understand the contemporary working practices occupants are engaged in within sustainably designed office buildings, and the implications of these practices for energy use and the performance gap.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available