EPSRC DTP PhD studentship: Co-producing energy demand reductions in workplace settings

University of Exeter - College of Engineering, Mathematics and Physical Sciences

Main supervisor: Dr Karen Bickerstaff (University of Exeter)
Co-supervisor: Dr Catherine Butler (University of Exeter)
Co-supervisor: Dr Daniel Lash (University of Exeter)

Project Description:

Non-domestic buildings currently account for around 18% of UK carbon emissions and represent very different sites of (collective) energy consumption (Staddon et al, 2016) making workplaces a critical focus for energy efficiency and low carbon initiatives. Over the last three decades significant attention has been directed at understanding energy use and reducing demand in domestic settings. However, workplace contexts have received far less empirical scrutiny – yet they are very different sites of (collective) energy consumption (Staddon et al, 2016). Across domestic and workplace settings, efforts to reduce demand have historically focused either on promoting behavioural change through information provision and persuasion or on the top-down diffusion of technological interventions (Bickerstaff et al, 2016). For instance, existing research on workplace demand reduction has coalesced around influencing the choices of individual occupants (e.g. Gandhi and Brager, 2016; Coleman et al 2013; Greaves et al 2013). However, evidence demonstrates that information provision alone is a weak predictor of environmental behaviours (Spaargaren 2011; Shove, 2010) and there is a discernible performance gap between design (for efficiency) and real-world outcomes in terms of energy use (Darby, 2010; Shipworth et al, 2010). Recognising such critiques, this project seeks to explore a more open and experimental approach to demand reduction - one that foregrounds the involvement of energy ‘users’ in (co)designing interventions, and that seeks to re-imagine relations to energy as much as to steer change.

The project will be based around the workplace contexts of a large UK local authority - Devon County Council (DCC) – and will involve close working with DCC staff at all levels. Qualitative (e.g. interviews and focus groups) and quantitative (e.g. energy consumption monitoring) methods will be utilised to understand variation in energy-related practices (such as lighting, use of ICT and thermal comfort) and to co-construct novel ways of approaching the problem of demand reduction. The research will provide insights into the evolution of workplace energy demand and how large organisations – specifically local authorities – might reassess dominant models for promoting ‘internal’ demand reduction.

3.5 year studentship: UK/EU tuition fees and an annual maintenance allowance at current Research Council rate. Current rate of £14,296 per year.

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South West England