Seminar Series

Transition of commercial buildings to low carbon: Assessment and Intervention (A&I) design focused on occupants’ behaviour towards a shift in energy use for space heating


Ph.D. Student Isabel Andrade


Department of Mechanical Engineering, University of Canterbury

Time & Place

Wed, 03 Nov 2021 14:20:00 NZDT in E12, Engineering Core


The COP21 Paris Agreement requires abatement of 80% of the current fossil-based energy consumption by 2040. In 2019, the International Energy Agency (IEA) on the global status for buildings and construction report pinpointed buildings as responsible for 39% of the total global CO2 emissions worldwide, with 33% of energy consumption by end-use of commercial buildings being assigned to space heating. Heating loads in commercial buildings can be reduced by building envelope retrofits, efficiency upgrades of heating equipment, energy management, and influencing energy saving behavior. Traditional engineering assessment methods use capacity metrics such as the building load coefficient (BLC) for the building infrastructure or the coefficient of performance (COP) for heating and cooling equipment, as a measure of how far the improvements can go. One way to optimize operation systems for space heating is to modify set points but the associated savings are limited by set parameters; for example, the changes to the indoor temperature are limited in order to maintain a safe indoor environmental quality (IEQ). Such constraints dictate the system’s capacity for energy reductions. This research aims to provide an energy assessment tool focused on occupants: Adaptive Capacity (AC). Adaptation, in the context of this study, is defined as maintaining productive work conditions during reduced building energy services. A three-stage study was conducted where the heating supply was constrained for office workers, thermal adaptive behaviors were monitored and coupled with room temperature to evaluate individual thermal adaptation. The AC of office workers was measured and then used to inform of the maximum individual potential of energy reductions. Two socio-cognitive factors were identified as influential to heating behaviours. The results from the qualitative and quantitative analysis formed the base to assess personal adaptive capacity and to design a targeted behavioural intervention for achievement of the 80% emissions reduction requirement. The proposed Assessment and Intervention (A&I) design represents a way to achieve significant emissions reduction in the near term and at low cost. 

All are Welcome!

Isabel Andrade

Supervisor: Associate Prof Sid Becker