Occupant behaviour 'key to saving energy'

Published:  01 May, 2013

The behaviour of a building's occupants is a key issue that must be addressed to reduce energy usage, according to speakers at this year's CIBSE Technical Symposium.

The annual event, this year sponsored by Rinnai, provides engineering practitioners and researchers with the opportunity to exchange practical experience, research and observations.

George Adams, CIBSE president elect, summed up the overarching theme of operability in buildings: "A lot of the presentations showed how critical it is to feedback a building's operation into the delivery process."

Buildings typically consume between two and three times more energy than is predicted at the design stage, and this is often due to a failure to understand occupant behaviour.

Justin Snoxall of British Land, winners of the 2013 CIBSE Carbon Champion of the Year Award, demonstrated how, by working with occupants and engineers in the daily management of buildings, the company has reduced energy use in its multi-tenanted office estate in London by 39% over four years.

Occupant behaviour was also explored by David Arnold from London South Bank University, who presented an interesting insight into why products can fail. This explored the relationship between preventing malfunction and the need to improve the designer’s knowledge and experience of such products.

The University of Reading's Samantha Mudie explored energy data from restaurants and pubs, which showed electricity output to be well over current industry estimates. She highlighted a need for the sector to look at working habits and, particularly in light of the high turnover of staff at these businesses, of educating employees to help reduce energy use.

The closing paper focused on Zero Carbon Homes, and was presented by Emma Heffernan from Plymouth University. This explored the unlikeliness of occupants wanting to change their behaviour and reduce energy use. She highlighted the need for clarity on government carbon targets, and how this affects people's homes and lives.

WRAP representatives Dave Cheshire and Ant Wilson highlighted the importance of resource efficiency, and set out the objectives of a WRAP-funded project looking at this topic specifically as it relates to building services. The project will explore opportunities to raise awareness of resource efficiency and ways to change behaviour from automatically scrapping building service systems to consider the recycling and reuse of services.

The papers and presentations from the Symposium, which was held at Liverpool John Moores University in April, are now online at www.cibse.org/symposium2013.