In the Spotlight: University of Salford
Please, introduce yourself and explain why you decided to be part of the BuildHeat project.
Hello, I’m Dr Tara Hughes and I am a researcher at the University of Salford, UK. We research all aspects of energy and buildings and we are responsible for managing and evaluating the human factors of the BuildHeat project.
You are an expert of retrofitting buildings: what are the most important aspects to consider when working to retrofit of a residential building?
Our previous research shows that resident engagement is a crucial aspect in the success of retrofit projects of residential buildings. Better communication with residents increases their knowledge of and satisfaction with what is being done to improve their homes, and raises awareness of the importance of energy efficiency and how to use their systems to save money. This increases enjoyment of their homes and benefits their health and wellbeing.
What are the social factors that shape energy demand in BuildHeat project?
The factors that influence energy consumption in homes include the fabric of the building, the systems and appliances that are inside it and how these are used by the people that live there. The behaviour of residents has a massive effect on energy consumption. The most energy-efficient homes with the best insulation, systems, and appliances can still waste a huge amount of energy if the people living there don’t understand how to use their systems or don’t care about saving energy.
Is there a risk of wasting energy by owners that are not aware of the operation of their newly installed systems?
Absolutely. Fortunately, most people do naturally care about saving energy, so it is essential that as we provide improvements to their homes and systems we make sure they know how best to use them. This way they will save energy and money and are more likely to be happier and healthier in their homes. We can help residents by providing feedback systems and controllers that are understandable and easy to use, and by supporting them as they learn to use them and adopt new habits.
What can the Energy House at the University of Salford teach the BuildHeat project?
The Energy House (in the picture) is a unique research facility. It is a real house built inside a climate controlled laboratory and represents a hard to treat home that is common in the UK. We carry out experiments on all kinds of retrofit measures and can quantify the benefits under laboratory conditions. Although it is a real full-sized, fully-furnished two-bedroom house the factor that is missing is inhabitants. This means we can measure and model energy, temperature, humidity, heat flux, etc. consistently over the same weather conditions. We can model the heat given off by people being present in the house during tests but we don’t model actual human behaviour.
Name a challenge you think you will run into during this project.
Initially I thought that the difference in languages spoken by the project partners would be a big challenge. In some ways it is, but it just means that we all try harder to be clear in what we’re saying and we make sure that whoever we’re communicating with understands what we’re saying. After meeting so many of the project partners at the workshop in Salford and visiting the RIGENERA team in Rome, I am impressed by the vast range of expertise we have working on this project and the collective passion to make it a success. As John F Kennedy said in 1961 “What unites us is far greater than what divides us.”