Loughborough University is pleased to announce that LoLo student, Dan Wright, passed his viva (with minor corrections) in January 2021. The LoLo community congratulates Dan, whose Thesis title was ‘The energy-saving potential of domestic zonal space heating controls: a socio-technical assessment of semi-detached and owner-occupied UK homes’ – we look forward to hearing about what comes next for Dr Wright!
We spoke to Dan about his time as a LoLo CDT student:
What was your PhD about?
Following a secondment with the DEFACTO Research Team at Loughborough University after my MRes with the LoLo CDT, I started my PhD with the aim of investigating operation and impact of zonal heating control use across a set of homes in the midlands under the supervision of Prof. Victoria Haines (Loughborough Design School) and Dr David Allinson (Loughborough University School of Architecture, Building and Civil Engineering). Zonal heating controls allow occupants to choose which rooms they heat, for how long they are heated and the temperature to which they are heated. Comparing weather-normalised gas use for 12 months pre-installation of zonal heating controls and 12 months post-installation, I found a broad range of change in gas use (from a 25% reduction and a 37% increase). A further 12 months of gas use was analysed to assess the consistency of change, highlighting an equally broad variation (range of 37% reduction to 18% increase against the baseline), but also that 61% of homes consistently reduced, consistently increased or did not appreciably change their gas use over the 24 months following installation of zonal heating controls. Using the Insights from the household interviews, I was able to define three heating strategies enabled by the zonal heating controls:
1. A basic strategy where zones were heated to the same setpoint for equal durations – This was a bit like using a standard room thermostat, however, with the benefit of all zones reaching the set temperature rather than relying on the reference room.
2. An intermediate strategy where zones were heated to different setpoints for equal durations – Different temperatures across different zones, potentially dependent on personal preference or occupancy, but uniform on and off times likely linked with dwelling occupancy schedules (work, school, etc.).
3. An advanced strategy where zones were heated to different setpoints for different durations – Use of the zonal heating controls to their potential, however, potential more appealing to those with larger dwellings and rarely used rooms or possibly homeworkers to heat a workspace.
This was the first multi-year, mixed-method field study investigating the real-world potential of how zonal heating controls could impact gas use in UK homes. It was (and continues to be!) a topic I’m fascinated by and was fortunate to be able to explore this as part of my time with the LoLo CDT.
What were the highlights of LoLo?
Being part of LoLo gave me the opportunity to jump from an academic background in psychology and the influential potential of energy use data into a CDT on the frontline of building energy use research. The Research Hub at Loughborough University was a really constructive place to work, share ideas, and learn about other research underway across the school. I always enjoyed linking up with the UCL-side of the CDT and the annual colloquiums were always something to look forward to.
What are you doing now?
A few days after submitting my thesis, I started a post as the Sustainability Lead for the Kent Community Health NHS Foundation Trust and have since been made Head of Sustainability. I have been responsible for developing the trust’s targets towards an NHS-shared ambition to be ‘net zero’ by 2045. Every working day is varied. I use my LoLo training in investigating energy use and implementing occupant-engagement projects across the trust’s estate, but also use the transferable skills picked up throughout my LoLo journey to further the trust’s varied aims covering a variety of fields including sustainable models of care, nutrition, transport, adaptation and transportation.