An occupant-centric assessment of the building performance gap in low utilisation, higher education facilities

Student thesis: Master's Thesis


Seminal literature advocates that the occupants of buildings are the real consumers ofenergy, not the buildings. While this is a helpful philosophy for design and retrofit analysis, it is not entirely accommodating of operational building energy demand. An optimistic amendment would suggest that it is the needs of people that consume energy rather than buildings, for nondomestic buildings at least. However, needs in operation are not guaranteed to correlate with simulation, and servicing of needs is not bound to the real occupant presence. The presence of the people, whose needs exist in a given discrete space is not a prerequisite of energy consumption. In broader terms of occupancy, the observation is absent from the nature of consuming services’ relationships with occupants and the activities that drive the second-order interests. That is, what constitutes as needs of one occupant is not necessarily equivalent of identical needs of another. These factors cause great concern for retrofit decision-making and invariably make a significant contribution to the building performance gap. Given the presumption of needs’ role in building energy consumption, it appears that the industry must revise its current definitions of what constitutes as an occupant and how efficiency is measured. After all, an ideal system is still inefficient, if its operation has no utility. Further and higher education facilities are notably sensitive to these concerns. Where the assumption that needs exist in design models is known typically to deviate by 73% in teaching spaces, in the United Kingdom. However, they are also uniquely equipped for stabilising their utilisation through strict class allocation planning. The difference in utilisation when mapped to zones in EnergyPlus can profoundly affect how a simulated building behaves. These changes to simulated behaviour can redefine the retrofit solution space. Without strict heating management through registration of perfrom constant-efficacy lighting retrofits from eighty Schedule-Climate scenarios. Referencing the low utilisation from the registration system and out-of-design presence, the discussion proposes how measuring efficiency in terms of met needs has merit in the higher education sector. Findings from the literature review and consideration of the heterogeneous utilisation is used to explore several new ontologies which bridge the gap between virtual and real occupants.The thesis which is themed on a previous publication proposes a philosophical framing of energy consumption in low-utilisation buildings. It makes several suggestions for future research ultimately concluding that retrofit analysis should focus on robust mediocrity over simulated optimality of proposals.
Date of Award14 Feb 2020
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University Of Strathclyde
SupervisorFarzad Pour Rahimian (Supervisor) & Andrew Agapiou (Supervisor)

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