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Talking about targets: How construction discourses of theory and reality represent the energy performance gap in the United Kingdom

Willan, C; Hitchings, R; Ruyssevelt, P; Shipworth, M; (2020) Talking about targets: How construction discourses of theory and reality represent the energy performance gap in the United Kingdom. Energy Research & Social Science , 64 , Article 101330. 10.1016/j.erss.2019.101330. (In press).

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Abstract

Targets for energy performance in operation have been advocated as a solution to the well-documented mismatch between the expected and actual energy use of buildings. Although construction industry actors will be crucial in realising these targets, their response to them is currently under-explored. Augmenting research on how middle actors shape energy consumption, this paper examines how everyday talk in the construction industry sustains this mismatch, drawing on a study of a hospital construction project with targets for energy in use. It applies Gilbert and Mulkay's approach to discourse analysis, particularly their interest in “accounting for error”, to data drawn from interviews with actors across the construction project, observation of daily life on site, and an examination of written interactions. Findings show how actors make a discursive division between the “theory” and “reality” of energy use. Expressing scepticism about “theory”, in particular, allows them to rationalise problems with future operational energy consumption and thereby mitigate their professional liability. This division therefore perpetuates, rather than overcomes, the separation between energy in design and operation, displacing a more collaborative discussion of performance expectations. This challenges the assumption that targets for energy in use can be effective without accompanying changes in industry incentives and ways of working. This paper argues for more attention to the patterns of talk that are found in the construction industry, in order to uncover how this crucial set of actors will respond to new energy policy incentives.

Type: Article
Title: Talking about targets: How construction discourses of theory and reality represent the energy performance gap in the United Kingdom
DOI: 10.1016/j.erss.2019.101330
Publisher version: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.erss.2019.101330
Language: English
Additional information: This version is the author accepted manuscript. For information on re-use, please refer to the publisher’s terms and conditions.
Keywords: Discourse, Non-domestic buildings, Construction, Energy performance gap, Energy performance targets, Middle actors
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/10090452
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