The role of user centred design in domestic energy demand reduction

2014-11-20T09:38:30Z (GMT) by Victoria Haines
The domestic sector currently accounts for approximately a third of the UK s energy use and so energy demand reduction in the domestic sector is a key part of the UK s strategy for carbon reduction. However, energy demand reduction has typically been addressed from an engineering perspective, with little consideration of the requirements of users. This PhD submission aims to identify how qualitative information about users experiences, values and practices relating to UK domestic energy demand reduction can be collected and presented effectively to an engineering audience and incorporated into engineering-focused energy research. User centred design is presented as a viable approach to understanding the context of energy use in UK homes and specifying requirements of the householders; as a way of ensuring user needs are included in this socio-technical problem space. This requires presentation of information about human behaviour in a form that is timely and appropriate to the engineering audience, who take a positivist view, preferring facts and figures to descriptions and anecdotes. A collection of nine publications, mostly peer-reviewed journal papers, by the thesis author and her co-authors is presented. Publications spanning from 2006 to 2014 illustrate a range of approaches to providing user centred information, from literature review to complex householder studies, which can provide information to enhance the engineering data and so provide additional insight and understanding. The research findings within the individual papers add to the body of knowledge on domestic energy use. In addition, the research identifies a number of roles where user centred design contributes to understanding of home energy use. From providing background and raising awareness of the presence of users within a system, to contextual understanding and the specification of user requirements, through to more sophisticated user characterisation, it is argued that user centred design can offer a significant contribution to the field. Future application of user information into engineering models, together with large scale, longitudinal studies of home energy use are proposed, building on the contributions of this thesis.