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Life in the gap: how does a construction company respond to the challenge of targets for energy and carbon in-use?

Willan, Catherine M; (2019) Life in the gap: how does a construction company respond to the challenge of targets for energy and carbon in-use? Doctoral thesis (Ph.D), UCL (University College London).

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Abstract

Operational energy targets have been suggested as a solution to the “gap” between buildings’ energy performance in design and use. Although construction professionals will play a crucial role in the implementation of these targets, their response is under-examined. This research presents a case study of how a construction company reacts to energy and carbon performance targets in a large, non-domestic project, employing qualitative data from interviews, observation, and documents. It reveals how high-level problems in industry collaboration and communication around energy play out in day-to-day life amongst construction actors “inside the gap”. Three strands of argument are developed, inspired by different, but complementary, concepts from Science and Technology Studies. Firstly, it is argued that construction actors’ practices create multiple versions of the targets. Aligning these poses many practical difficulties, and raises questions about the nature of an energy efficient building. Using discourse analysis, the construction team’s talk around the targets is shown to perpetuate the gap between the theory and reality of building performance, and impede collaborative discussion of the uncertainties inherent in energy performance. Finally, the concept of boundary objects reveals how current systems of information management do not support construction actors in translating the targets’ aspirations into action, and fail to prioritise energy. The findings suggest that operational energy targets have the potential to drive improvements in the building stock, but encounter unforeseen difficulties when imposed on established relationships and ways of working. Adjusting commercial relationships is key to energy targets’ eventual success. However, the energy performance of a building is a mutable product, made and mediated by many actors. Care must be taken in the setting and enforcement of performance targets. The research demonstrates the value of a situated understanding of how new policy mechanisms play out amongst the actors charged with their implementation.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Qualification: Ph.D
Title: Life in the gap: how does a construction company respond to the challenge of targets for energy and carbon in-use?
Event: UCL (University College London)
Language: English
Additional information: Copyright © The Author 2019. Original content in this thesis is licensed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0) Licence (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/). Any third-party copyright material present remains the property of its respective owner(s) and is licensed under its existing terms. Access may initially be restricted at the author’s request.
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS > Faculty of the Built Environment
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS > Faculty of the Built Environment > Bartlett School Env, Energy and Resources
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10081561
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