Practices and technological change: The unintended consequences of low energy dwelling design

Foulds, Christopher (2013) Practices and technological change: The unintended consequences of low energy dwelling design. Doctoral thesis, University of East Anglia.

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Abstract

There is an urgent need to reduce domestic energy consumption, particularly due to
climate change. Domestic energy policies and research have been dominated by the
assumption that technological provision will linearly save energy. Conventional attempts
to move away from this approach have not gone far enough, tending to still assume that
technological usage is a linear outcome of an individual’s rational decision-making.
This thesis takes a significantly different approach by drawing on social practice theory
and focusing on how everyday life is performed. Specifically, a Passivhaus housing
development is adopted as a case study in investigating the everyday consequences of
advancing dwelling design. Passivhaus is a German energy efficiency building standard,
employing very different technologies relative to conventional UK housing. Specific
attention is given to how unfamiliar technologies influence domestic practices more
generally, as well as appliance-using practices and designing and constructing practices
more specifically.
This thesis has significant empirical, methodological and theoretical contributions.
Empirically, everyday examples illustrate the unintended consequences of new
technologies, providing insight on how such technologies could change practices in the
future. Methodologically, by treating quantitative consumption-related data (e.g. building
monitoring, appliance ownership, construction data) as by-products of performing
practices, an innovative mixed methods approach provides unique insights on everyday
practices. Theoretically, the potential usefulness of a practices approach is emphasised; in
particular, in developing a detailed and contextual understanding of how everyday life is
constructed and how it is open to change (often in unexpected ways).
This thesis reiterates that research and policy should focus on practices, rather than
technological performance or what individuals think about technologies. It concludes by:
discussing a re-framing of policy expectations; outlining how energy saving interventions
could target domestic practices and its influencing elements; and providing a series of
new research ideas that have been generated by this thesis.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Faculty \ School: Faculty of Science > School of Environmental Sciences
Depositing User: Mia Reeves
Date Deposited: 13 Jun 2014 08:27
Last Modified: 13 Jun 2014 08:27
URI: https://ueaeprints.uea.ac.uk/id/eprint/48784
DOI:

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