Skip to content

Symposium shows occupant behaviour is key to saving energy

Engineering practitioners and researchers discussed the need to address occupant behaviour and ‘operability' to help reduce energy usage in buildings at the 2013 CIBSE Technical Symposium, sponsored by Rinnai. This annual event provides an opportunity to exchange practical experience as well as new research findings and observations.

George Adams, CIBSE President Elect, summed up the overarching theme of operability in buildings: "A lot of the presentations showed how critical it is to feedback a building's operation into the delivery process."

Buildings typically consume 2 to 3 times more energy than predicted at design stage, and this is often due to a failure to understand occupant behaviour. Justin Snoxall of British Land, winners of the CIBSE Carbon Champion of the Year Award in 2013, demonstrated how working with occupants and engineers in the daily management of buildings, the company has reduced energy use in its multi-tenanted office estate in London by 39% over 4 years.

Occupant behaviour was also explored by David Arnold from London South Bank University, who presented an interesting insight into why products can fail. This explored the relationship between preventing malfunction and the need to improve the designer's knowledge and experience of such products.

Samantha Mudie of University of Reading explored energy data from restaurants and pubs which showed electricity output to be well over current industry estimates. She highlighted a need for the sector to look at working habits, and particularly in light of the high turnover of staff, of educating employees to help reduce energy use.

The closing paper about Zero Carbon Homes was presented by Emma Heffernan from Plymouth University. This explored the unlikeliness of occupants wanting to change their behaviour and reduce energy use. She highlighted the need for clarity of government carbon targets and how this affects people's homes and lives.

WRAP representatives Dave Cheshire and Ant Wilson highlighted the importance of resource efficiency, and set out the objectives of a WRAP funded project looking at this topic specifically as it relates to building services. The project will explore opportunities to raise awareness of resource efficiency and ways to change behaviour from automatically scrapping building service systems to consider recycling and reuse of services.

The papers and presentations from the Symposium, which was held at Liverpool John Moores University on 11th -12th April, are now online at  The CIBSE Technical Symposium 2014 will be held in Dublin on 3-4th April.