Thinking inside the box: new ways of considering energy consumption in a multi-user agency-constrained environment

Ksenia Chmutina, Andrew Dainty, Robert Schmidt, Elli Nikolaidou, Eirini Mantesi, Yang Yu, Malcolm Cook

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (SciVal)


Reductions in end-use energy imply some level of technological and behavioural change — yet there are marked differences in the balance between them. Moreover, the ways in which these influences can combine and mutually shape each other are complex, especially where multiple users interact within the same environment. A socio-technical perspective has gradually become more popular in building energy research in recent years, as it widens the focus beyond technology to include practices, infrastructure, markets, policies, social norms, and cultural meanings; however, there is very little knowledge on how this interplay works — particularly in a non-domestic environment. In this paper, we attempt to enhance the understanding of ‘social ordering of choices, problems and practice’ (Guy & Shove, 2000, p. 139) within a retail environment — and how these are competing when it comes to decisions about energy consumption. Using a longitudinal multi-methodological case study approach, this paper aims to explicate the socio-technical context within which energy consumption is considered by various actors in a large supermarket given that these actors have other behaviours (e.g. convenience, profit) as a priority and that the retail environment is agency constrained (i.e. shoppers, employees can hardly do anything individually to affect energy consumption). Using mixed-reality platform, we visualised socio-technical interactions, thus also visualising the decisions on where energy efficiency interventions could be made, what needs to be considered, and how this differs from different perspectives. Priorities that often remain ‘unspoken’ become visible — and thus provide a powerful foundation for the discussion about the consequences of an intervention there and then thus reduce the complexity of discussions and keeping crucial information available during the entire discussion process.

Original languageEnglish
Article number92
JournalEnergy Efficiency
Issue number8
Early online date7 Dec 2021
Publication statusPublished - 31 Dec 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Removed to protect anonymity of the authors ? to be added after the peer review


  • Energy efficiency
  • Mixed reality design platform
  • Retail environment
  • Socio-technical interplay

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Energy(all)


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