W6UP5 – Life in the gap: how does a construction company respond to the challenge of targets for energy and carbon in-use?
22nd December 2015 Catherine Willan

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


Catherine Willan, UCL Energy Institute

Background to the research:

  • Buildings that are designed to be low carbon do not always perform as anticipated. Evidence from academia, government, and the construction industry itself has pointed to problems in communications between the many and varied groups in construction teams. Research also suggests that communication difficulties can be further compounded by fragmented working practices.
  • Making construction companies responsible for the performance of buildings in-use through energy and carbon targets, or other incentives, could be part of the solution to more reliably performing low-carbon buildings.
  • Working in partnership with a UK construction company, this project investigates how construction teams respond to these new incentives.   To do so, it examines what members of the construction team do, say, and share in response to targets for energy and carbon in-use.

Research overview:

  • The research draws on selected case studies of the sponsoring company’s non-domestic building projects.
  • Data is being gathered from a variety of qualitative data sources, including field notes, semi-structured interviews and a range of documents.
  • Three concepts from Science and Technology Studies are employed to explore the practices, communications and management of knowledge relating to energy targets in the projects.
  • The findings suggest that targets for energy performance in-use encounter unforeseen difficulties when imposed on established ways of working and industry incentive structures.
  • More experience, more guidance and greater standardisation are required to help construction teams deliver on performance targets.
  • However, the analysis also reveals how the efficiency of a building is made and mediated by construction actors.
  • The research demonstrates the value of a situated understanding of how energy targets play out amongst the stakeholders charged with their implementation.