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Conditioning Demand: Older People, Diversity and Thermal Experience

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Project Administrator: Andrew Karvonen

The goal of this project is to understand the diversity and dynamics of thermal experiences in an ageing society and the implications for current and future energy consumption. The project team is investigating the issue of energy consumption as a socio-technical phenomenon by unpacking the social and material dimensions of energy and carbon challenges related to 'thermal experience' in domestic settings in the UK and France. The empirical research follows two key forms of future change: the demographic trend of an ageing society and the development of energy-efficient technologies. Our aim is not only to understand the implications of these two key dimensions of social and technological change, but also to detect potential synergies, gaps, and mismatches between them as they relate to residential thermal experience.

The project team is interviewing older residents across a range of domestic living situations and socio-economic categories to understand the diversity of thermal experiences within this population group. The researchers are also collecting data about the spatial and material aspects of the thermal experience in interviewees' houses. A particular focus of the study is the uptake of energy-efficient technologies that alter thermal experience, including heat pumps, solar hot water, and mechanical ventilation with heat recovery. The researchers will also interview actors who are engaged in the promulgation of the energy-efficient technologies, including energy modellers, technology designers, installers, and building maintenance and operations personnel.

The empirical data will be systematically analysed by the project team using qualitative data analysis software and the findings will be disseminated on the project website, through academic and trade journals, and at various conferences. The outcomes of the project will be relevant to a diverse array of disciplinary communities, including scholars of sociology, architecture, urban planning, engineering, science and technology studies, geography, and environmental psychology. The researchers will also reach out to non-academic stakeholders including NGOs, community organisations, and the general public to elucidate the multiple factors that shape thermal experience. Finally, the project will build research capacity in the study of people, energy, and buildings by training four post-doctoral researchers as well as an interlinked cohort of doctoral students and EDF's research and development group.

Project Duration

January 2011 to June 2013
Funders: Research Councils UK Energy Programme and ECLEER
Budget: £794,000

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