In order to reduce energy use and improve indoor environmental quality (IEQ), new and retrofitted dwellings are increasingly equipped with complex heating and mechanical ventilation solutions, which occupants have to learn to use and live with. This work investigates the different ways in which occupants integrate these technologies into daily domestic practices, the associated difficulties and their potential consequences on comfort and building performance. Semi-structured interviews were carried out with occupants of 37 new and retrofitted low-energy dwellings around Copenhagen (Denmark), focusing on occupants’ domestication of underfloor heating and mechanical ventilation. While most respondents were largely satisfied with the IEQ in their homes, the interviews highlighted a disconnection between expected and real uses and perceptions of these technologies. The design assumptions were sometimes unable to reflect occupants’ expectations, including regarding personal control needs. Moreover, installation and operational failures were frequent and difficult for users to diagnose and correct, as they lacked relatable technical guidance. Consequently, occupants often resorted to alternative ways of taking control, which could prove detrimental for energy use and IEQ. The findings highlight the need for incorporating interdisciplinary insights on in-use performance in the design and installation of building systems, making them more robust, reliable and transparent.
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The authors wish to thank the participants to the interviews for their time and interest in the project, as well as the housing association in Case B and the EnergyLab Nordhavn project staff for their help in getting access to the residents. The authors are also particularly grateful to the students of Applied Anthropology at Copenhagen University and of Integrated Design at the Technical University of Denmark for carrying out the interviews in Case B, as well as their lecturers Henrik H. Mikkelsen and Christian A. Hviid. They also wish to thank Simon P.A.K. Larsen for his substantial contribution to the interviews in Case A. Lucile Sarran is a member of IEA EBC Annex 79 and the present work greatly benefitted from the discussions with other members. This work was supported by Saint-Gobain Nordic A/S, the Danish Innovation Fund and Realdania under grant number 7038-00224A.
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- Energy efficiency
- Occupant satisfaction
- Qualitative research