Improvisatory home heating: the gap between intended and actual use of radiators and TRVs
thesisposted on 21.06.2016, 15:00 by Katalin Osz
Ongoing modification and change is core to how domestic and built environments function. Thus occupants domestication and development of home heating practices around low-carbon technologies is likely to exceed what building engineering sciences have the ability to plan ahead for. Yet, environmental policies and low -carbon industry approaches to sustainable energy consumption are characterised by a high degree of technological determinism. Disciplinary approaches to sustainable energy consumption tend to separate home heating into stable, routine interaction with control points, environmental factors and socio-demographic drivers. Framing low-carbon technical change in isolation from domestic environments often leads to a gap between intended and actual use of technologies. By focusing on TRVs (thermostatic radiators valve) and radiators, this thesis takes an interdisciplinary turn to jointly examine the social and environmental elements of households energy use. A turn to sensory ethnography and practice-place relationships offers a way to better understand how people use energy for space heating in relation to the buildings they live in and how improvisatory uses of technologies emerge from flows of material, domestic, sensory and physical contingencies of the home. Combining home video tours with building energy monitoring in eight homes, the thesis demonstrates that home heating is a place-event of the home because heating systems and energy consumption are woven into the fabric of everyday life. Environmental elements show that the social and technical are inseparable in energy used for space heating and individual elements imply that the domestication of technologies is highly unpredictable. The thesis synthesises findings into a taxonomy table of irregular radiator and TRV use. On the one hand, irregularities indicate that improvisatory uses of technologies are productive sources of sustainable change because they can be potential sites for co-design. On the other hand, the interwoven character of the social and technical in households energy use critically challenges how environmental policy, low-carbon industry and disciplinary approaches frame intervention into sustainable energy consumption. The thesis argues for the value of logic of intervention and sustainable change that is collaborative, system-focused and gradually uncovers interrelationships.