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Small power use and working practices in office buildings

Pothitou, M. (2020) Small power use and working practices in office buildings. EngD thesis, University of Reading

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To link to this item DOI: 10.48683/1926.00103903


This research aims to improve understanding of small power energy consumption in office buildings through an examination of the office work practices that give rise to it. Previous studies have mainly been based on quantitative approaches to show the contribution of small power use to total building energy consumption, and do not generally examine why small power energy is being used nor what it is used for. This deductive study takes a new approach, rooted in Social Practice Theory (SPT), by exploring how variations of small power use relate to the dynamic nature of office work practices. The research informs thinking about the nature and causes of small power energy use in offices and will ultimately be of interest to all those concerned with the design and operation of this building type. A mixed-methods approach is used to understand office workers’ work practices and how they give rise to electricity use in offices. Data were captured across three different office sites in Berkshire in the United Kingdom between September 2018 and April 2019. Each office worker participant in the study was observed and monitored over two different working days within a two-month period in each office site. The approach uses quantitative analysis of data from observations of activities performed and the devices and spaces used, as well as from monitoring of the energy consumption directly associated with them. This is combined with a qualitative exploration of office work through semi-structured interviews based on the elements of SPT. The research contributes to knowledge in four main ways. First, it develops a new definition of small power energy use by interrelating the use of office equipment and electric plug-in devices with office workers’ activities undertaken in different office spaces over a working day. Second, this study presents new data on small power energy use, showing its temporal distribution by different types of workers and suggests that variations in small power energy use in the office sites studied arise from the mobility of workers and their associated work practices. Further, the mobility of workers, determined mainly by their work role, is important in understanding small power energy use. The activities of ‘mainly-static’ workers account for more small power energy use than those of other types of worker (‘mainly-mobile’ workers). Third, by exploring the working practices of office workers through the elements of SPT, an improved understanding of the work giving rise to small power energy consumption is developed. This highlights how the meanings that office workers ascribe to their work activities and the organizational rules under which they operate influence energy use through the type of devices they use and where work is carried out. Finally, the research develops a new categorisation of energy-consuming work activities performed by office workers that relates their mobility and the devices they use in different office spaces. This categorisation includes work activities (‘desk-based’ activities; ‘communication’ activities; ‘extracting/organizing document’ activities) and also other activities not related to work (e.g. preparing coffee in the kitchen) that have energy-consuming impacts. This research develops an understanding of office work practices by considering what activities that involve energy-consuming devices and equipment are performed in different office spaces. Additionally, it identifies the nature of these activities, what are these devices and equipment, and their associated small power energy consumption to show how small power energy use can be explored and better understood through exploration of the work practices that give rise to it.

Item Type:Thesis (EngD)
Thesis Supervisor:Conaughton, J. and Torriti, J.
Thesis/Report Department:School of Construction Management and Engineering
Identification Number/DOI:
Divisions:Science > School of the Built Environment > Construction Management and Engineering
ID Code:103903
Date on Title Page:August 2019


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