Applying user-centred design to the service of installing renewable heating technology into UK social housing properties
2014-04-15T11:56:00Z (GMT) by
Global climate change and energy use have gained significance as principal issues in Government policy, with energy and carbon reduction targets becoming increasingly ambitious. The European Union have committed to a 20% reduction in both energy use and greenhouse gas emissions and for 20% of total energy supply to come from renewable sources by 2020, compared to 1990 levels. The UK has committed to a 34% cut in energy use within the same timeframe. The domestic sector accounts for over a quarter of all UK CO2 emissions and therefore poses an important area to address against the set targets. An overall stringent target has been set to reduce carbon emissions by 80%, against 1990 levels, by 2050 and it has been established that over two-thirds of the housing stock that will exist in 2050 is already built. Consequently, reducing household energy consumption and carbon emissions through retrofit measures is crucial. This doctoral research was carried out as part of a 3-year, interdisciplinary project Carbon, Control and Comfort (CCC) [EP/G000395/1]. The aim of the CCC project was to assist social housing tenants in reducing their energy use and carbon emissions associated with heating practices whilst maintaining comfort in the home. Technologies utilising renewable energy are progressively being introduced into social housing, particularly for the provision of heating and hot water. In order to meet carbon reduction targets, the uptake and installation of renewable technology needs to be successful and occupants must be able to use the technology effectively. This research investigated the service of installing heat pumps into social housing properties, from both the landlord s experiences and tenant s experiences, with particular emphasis on the implications for older tenants, a key group of users. It aimed to develop an understanding of the service delivery from the tenants interactions with the landlord and the heating system, sought to identify any need for improvement of this experience and propose measures to address these issues. Adopting a user-centred design approach, this research was conducted over three main phases comprising three empirical studies. A first exploration study investigated the current situation of heat pump installations in UK social housing and the experiences of both landlords and tenants during this process. Through this understanding, the needs and wants of both landlords, as the service provider, and tenants, as the service recipient, were identified and potential areas that could be addressed to improve the service emerged. Key requirements for improved information, particularly relating to the introduction of the technology and its control, were identified from reviewing current service delivery processes. A second study was carried out with stakeholders on both sides of the service, as a continuation of the user-centred design approach, to develop user requirements and ascertain the ways in which these key areas could be addressed. A set of recommendations was formed for the identified measures to improve the service. A particular key measure was prototyped, based on the requirements extracted from the first exploration study and further developed in the second study. This enabled an evaluation to be carried out through a third study, with end users assessing the prototype. This applied the final stage of the user-centred design process to the key touchpoint of the service delivery focused on as a result of the research, prior to implementation or further work. As a final part of this thesis, the author reflected on the research undertaken against the aim and objectives set out at the beginning of the thesis. The discussion of the research at the end of the thesis indicated where contributions to knowledge lie. Firstly, this is evident in the greater understanding of heat pump installations in UK social housing this research provides an insight into and what may improve this service. The resultant recommendations for improvements to the service delivery provide a new contribution to the area. Secondly, applying user-centred design to the service delivery of installing heat pumps into social housing is a new way of approaching the design of this service process. In a relatively immature area of industry, installations to date have been heavily focused on the technical aspects of the system and so this research provides a valuable insight into the human aspects of the service delivery.