Green choices: the influence of socio-technical parameters on householder decision making in green retrofit projects

Although the uptake of green retrofit measures (GRM) in the UK is increasing, empirical data often reveals significant shortfalls in the energy performance realised by domestic green retrofit projects. Such results pose a threat to UK emissions targets and are particularly problematic for the credibility of the government’s flagship scheme: The Green Deal. The energy performance of a dwelling may be influenced by both its physical properties and the energy behaviours of its occupants and, whilst the retrofitting of GRM seeks to improve energy performance through physical alteration, the way in which users interact with these measures is likely to influence the extent of that performance. It is theorised that greater consideration for these socio-technical factors by those selecting GRM may yield more predictable energy performance in-use whilst better accommodating the needs and expectations of the occupants. A series of qualitative interviews were used to explore the decisionmaking processes and in-use practices of early adopters of domestic GRM. The research concludes that those currently realising exemplary energy performance demonstrate a level of technical understanding and interest which is not representative of social norms. Furthermore, acknowledging that the installation of multiple, interoperating GRM may lead to higher energy performance, it is evident that a lack of technical understanding may currently inhibit the effective operation and maintenance of such systems, regardless of users’ willingness to interact with them. As such, a better understanding of the technical abilities and in-use expectations of UK householders is required to aid the development of more intuitive and intelligent green retrofit solutions. Where this could be achieved, improved predictability and superior energy performance would likely follow.