UCL Institute for Environmental Design and Engineering


A sociotechnical approach to post-occupancy evaluation interactive adaptability in domestic retrofit


20 May 2014

Understanding the process of domestic retrofit is important for learning and innovation. This is particularly the case for low carbon retrofits such as those undertaken under the UK's Retrofit for the Future (RftF) programme, with its aim to achieve an overall 80% carbon reduction by 2050. Current post-occupancy evaluation (POE) research has both theoretical and methodological limitations with implications for technical and behavioural research in the built environment. Drawing on relevant ideas and concepts from social practice theory and science and technology studies, principally prefiguration (constraints/enablement), black-boxing, heating and cooling practices, this paper demonstrates how the relationship between buildings and people could be reconceptualized as mutually constitutive and co-evolving through a process of ‘interactive adaptation’. The concept of ‘interactive adaptation’ is explored through a novel approach to integrating physical and social data collected from a sample of dwellings selected from the RftF programme. Analysis yields insights into the influences and pathways of interactive adaptation resulting from retrofit technology and practices. The implications of these insights for policy-makers, the research community and practitioners are discussed: end-use energy demand policy needs to be informed by a socio-technical approach.

A socio-technical approach to post-occupancy evaluation: interactive adaptability in domestic retrofit. Building Research & Information, 42 (5), 574-590. 

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Chiu, L.F., Lowe, R., Raslan, R.M., Altamirano, H., Wingfield, J. (2014)