Using a practice-orientated approach to inform the design of energy efficiency measures for older homes

CALEBRE, a four year research project, is developing technologies to improve the energy efficiency of solid-walled housing, particularly in the owner occupied market. The engineering partners within the project require very specific information from user centred design practitioners in order to develop innovative glazing, heating, ventilation and insulation technologies. However the project recognises that it is the 'soft factors' that must be addressed in order to make these measures acceptable and appealing to householders. This requires a deeper understanding of users' motivations for improving their homes and the complex interplay of factors relating to aesthetics, lifestyle, life events, energy efficiency and finance. Rather than solely focussing on specifying user requirements for each of the project's energy saving technologies, CALEBRE is taking a systemic approach, seeking to understand what householders value about their homes aesthetically and practically and the home improvement practices they currently adopt in order to maintain and improve their homes. The introduction of energy efficiency measures requires the homeowner to make major one- off (often irreversible) decisions relating to the structure and appearance of their homes. Understanding the factors shaping such significant acts of consumption is therefore essential if wide-scale adoption of such measures is going to be achieved. This paper presents the challenges associated with using a practice-orientated user-centred design approach to inform the design of energy efficiency measures and the strategies for retrofitting these technologies into older homes. It will introduce two data collection methods developed within CALEBRE specifically to address these challenges.