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Social housing tenants join pioneering energy study

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Social housing tenants join pioneering energy study

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Published by Max Salsbury for 24dash.com in Environment and also in Housing

Southend residents to complete energy efficiency survey Southend residents to complete energy efficiency survey

Over 70 families living in council homes across Exeter have joined a study aimed at reducing energy use.

The University of Bath is attempting to establish why identical homes with identical numbers of occupants differ greatly in the amount they spend on energy.

Exeter City Council has worked with the university to recruit residents with suitable properties for the study, in which computer scientists, architects, engineers and psychologists have come together to develop a better understanding of how buildings and the habits of their occupants can be modified so that they consume less gas and electricity.

Leading the project, professor David Coley from the University of Bath’s department of architecture & civil engineering, said: “Energy use in homes has been subject to widespread study, but this project allows us to look at it from two perspectives, that of occupant behaviour, and of building performance.

"We’ll be able to clearly determine the most effective interventions, be those to behaviour or building materials, in order to reduce energy use in homes.”

The homes taking part have had sensors installed which give the research team data about how the building is being used.

The sensors can tell the researchers the temperature of the building and its performance during different environmental conditions.

The researchers are also monitoring the use of energy in the buildings, so will see how often electronic devices such as kettles or washing machines are used by inhabitants.

Dr Lizzi Gabe-Thomas, from the university's department of psychology, said: “For the first year we are simply gathering data on normal building use. We’re not asking people to watch their energy use - rather we want them to go about their normal, day-to-day life.

“In the second year we’ll explore a number of different ways of giving advice and feedback to people from the sensor data, to determine which work, how long they work for, and how lasting behaviour change can be achieved.”

It is also hoped that the project will provide a unique insight into the causes of fuel poverty with the development of an in-depth understanding of building energy use and the role of behaviour in this. From this knowledge, targeted interventions could be made to lift people out of fuel poverty.

Exeter City Council's lead councillor for housing and customer access, cllr Rob Hannaford, said: “The council is keen to participate in this project which will allow better energy management and a greater understanding of fuel needs, reducing energy bills for our residents while contributing to carbon reduction. While we’ve recruited a large number of homes already, we’re still encouraging more council residents to join us in this exciting project.”

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