Low-Energy Domestic Architecture: The Impact Of Household Behaviour On The Expected Energy Use Of Passive House Dwellings

  • Tom Blight

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisPhD


Reduction of carbon emissions is understood to be vital to help mitigate catastrophic climate change. In Europe, 40% of energy use is attributed to the built environment (European Commission, 2010), with a large proportion of this from dwellings. In line other legislation for decarbonisation under the Climate Change Act of 2008, the UK Government has agreed that all new housing will be ‘zero carbon’ from 2016 onwards. From a technical aspect this task is feasible using improved insulation performance, more airtight building techniques, efficient servicing, and renewable energy technologies. In practice however, post-occupancy evaluation studies highlight a discrepancy between design energy use and measured energy performance, with a tendency for real buildings to use more energy than designed and for projects regarded as ‘low energy’ in design to use an equivalent amount of energy as a pre-existing counterpart (Bordass, 2001; Branco, Lachal, Gallinelli, & Weber, 2004; Gill, Tierney, Pegg, & Allan, 2011). This difference between design and use - ‘the design gap’ - is attributed to both the physical ‘hard’ features of the building (form, area, systems) and occupant-driven or ‘soft’ features (ventilation & heating preferences) by a number of studies (Guerra Santin, Itard, & Visscher, 2009; Socolow, 1978). This body of work begins with a review of the field and state of the art - occupant influence on energy use in a domestic environment. The first contribution to knowledge is in the adapted utilisation of a piece of software by Richardson et al. which stochastically generated electricity use profiles for homes which are shown to be similar to measured energy usage, both in net energy use and in load profiles (Richardson, Thomson, & Infield, 2008). This adapted software was implemented to generate appliance use profiles for a number of dwelling models. These results are then interrogated and a regression model proposed based on a number of dependent variables identified in the input profiles. The theory of planned behaviour is used to underpin a survey in which a number of households are asked to comment on their attitude and behaviour with regards to energy use in the home – the homes in this case being new-build Passivhaus council-housing in Devon. The results of this project form the second aspect of this work’s contribution to knowledge.
Date of Award16 Sept 2015
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Bath
SupervisorDavid Coley (Supervisor) & Joanne Smith (Supervisor)


  • Passive House
  • Occupant behaviour
  • Simulation
  • Survey

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