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Occupant behaviour is a key driver of building performance

The influence of occupant behaviour on building performance was explored by psychologists and specialists in building use and adaptation on the second day of the Chartered Institution of Building Services Engineer’s (CIBSE) Conference and Exhibition.

Rhiannon Cocoran, Professor of Psychology at the University of Liverpool, spoke about how buildings can be adapted to encourage occupants to act in a more ecologically sound way, and the influence of human preference for immediate rather than long term gain on how they behave in buildings. When we are in pleasant environments we are more likely to perform socially beneficial tasks like recycling, community action and sustainable actions than if we live in unpleasant environments.

This talk formed part of a session on how the UK building stock can be adapted to climate change, with Ann Marie Aguilar, of Arup, who focussed on meeting the increasing needs of older people and the disabled by considering how they actually use buildings and making small changes that enhance their wellbeing and quality of life.

Alexi Marmot of Alexi Marmot Associates encouraged different thinking about our working environments, noting the direct link between our satisfaction with our work environment and our jobs. She also highlighted how occupant behaviour drives building management, citing the demand for air conditioning, regardless of its actual effectiveness. She also argued that we only use a small percentage of total office space productively, but re-designing the working week around usage patterns is often too psychologically difficult to achieve.

The session on changes to UK and EU legislation relating to buildings featured talks on Building Regulations in the UK and likely changes to Part L in England and the requirements of the F-Gas Directive, presented by Mike Nankivell of the Air Conditioning and Refrigerant Training Board (ACRIB). Nina Reid, Director of Responsible Property investment at M&G Real Estate outlined the forthcoming legislation on minimum energy efficiency standards, and Tahsina Khan of the Industrial and Commercial Boilers Association reviewed the Energy Related Products Framework and its implementing measures, noting that energy efficiency standards and labelling for smart building systems were currently being studied by the European Commission.

The afternoon sessions featured presentations of recent Innovate UK funded research. There was lively debate between the audience and those speaking on the evaluation of building performance. Matt Colmer of Innovate UK asked the key question “why don’t buildings perform in real life as they do on paper?” From a client perspective users do not always use the building’s systems as the designer intended, and empathy between designer and end user is a good way to boost building performance. Other speakers outlined the challenges facing designers in trying to meet this challenge, and achieve designs which meet the design energy performance expectations.

The Conference closed with a session on innovation and collaboration in building performance, echoing Nick Mead’s Presidential theme of collaboration. Among the ideas on show were an ‘impossible house’ that generates more electricity than it uses and costs £125k, the connected city of Bristol as visited by the President of Singapore, and a power generating tree.