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Using epidemiological methods in energy and buildings research to achieve carbon emission targets

Energy demand reduction from buildings is widely recognised as a key component of greenhouse gas abatement strategies. As governments shift towards large-scale sectoral interventions, a far more robust research and evidence base is needed to support the development, implementation, and on-going evaluation of energy demand policy.

Research By:

  • Ian Hamilton
  • Alex Summerfield
  • Tadj Oreszczyn
  • Paul Ruyssevelt

Abstract:

Energy demand reduction from buildings is widely recognised as a key component of greenhouse gas abatement strategies. As governments shift towards large-scale sectoral interventions, a far more robust research and evidence base is needed to support the development, implementation, and on-going eval- uation of energy demand policy.

The shift to a low carbon built environment will require both a step change in the energy performance of buildings alongside more efficient provision of energy services, and an aggressive decarbonisation of the energy used. Yet the prerequisite data of building stocks needed to support this essential shift in energy performance of buildings are not necessarily available or are inaccessible or incomplete. As more information on building energy use is collected through high frequency sensors and building form analytics become more sophisticated, the analysis methods applied to the myriad and diverse sub-sectors of the building stock ‘population’ need to be commensurate with the heterogeneity of the building stock.

This paper describes and illustrates the basis of the IEA EBC Annex 70: Building Energy Epidemiol- ogy, which draws on the health sciences to posit ‘energy epidemiology’ as a whole-system approach for empirical research that provides a methodological framework for building physicists, engineers, social scientists, and economists to engage in cross-disciplinary studies. It makes the case that the development and application of an epidemiological approach to investigating energy demand can advance understand- ing of the inter-related factors for policy guidance and evaluation and provide insights on the mechanisms that influence energy demand. The aim of the IEA EBC Annex 70 is to work in an international collabo- ration to identify user needs around energy demand in buildings and to establish best practice methods and harmonized formats for data collection, analysis and modelling.

To illustrate this process, we present an example from the UK on the application of energy epidemio- logical methods to building energy performance in the residential sector. The case study investigates the potential effectiveness of the policy and technical measures proposed by the UK Government.

Policy implementation for broad, deep, and urgent reductions in energy demand from the building sector requires a far better understanding of the underlying relationships between people, energy use, buildings and the environment.

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Citation:

Hamilton, Ian., Summerfield, Alex., Oreszczyn, Tadj., Ruyssevelt, Paul. (2017). Using epidemiological methods in energy and buildings research to achieve carbon emission targets. Energy and Buildings. doi: 10.1016/j.enbuild.2017.08.079