Energy efficiency improvements in traditional buildings: exploring the role of user behaviour in the hygrothermal performance of solid walls.
Herrera Gutierrez-Avellanosa, Daniel
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HERRERA GUTIERREZ-AVELLANOSA, D. 2016. Energy efficiency improvements in traditional buildings: exploring the role of user behaviour in the hygrothermal performance of solid walls. Robert Gordon University, PhD thesis.
Thermal improvement of traditional and historic buildings is going to play a crucial role in the achievement of established carbon emission targets. The suitable retrofit options for traditional buildings are, however, very limited and their long term performance is still uncertain. Evaluation of risks, prior to any alteration of building physics, is critical to avoid future damage to the fabric or occupants’ health. Moisture dynamics in building envelopes are affected by the enclosure’s geometry, materials properties and external and internal boundary conditions. Since the internal boundary is heavily influenced by users, understanding their behaviour is essential to predict the outcome of energy retrofit measures more accurately. The effect of user behaviour on energy demand has been extensively investigated; however, its impact on the hygrothermal performance of the envelopes has barely been explored. This research approached the connection between users and buildings from a new angle looking at the effect that user behaviour has on moisture dynamics of buildings’ envelopes after the retrofit. Qualitative and quantitative research methods were used to develop a holistic evaluation of the question. Firstly, factors influencing the adoption of energy efficiency measures in traditional buildings were explored by means of semi-structured interviews with private owners and project managers. Subsequently, a multi-case study including interviews with occupants and monitoring of environmental conditions was conducted. Data collected at this stage was used to explore users’ daily practices of comfort and to characterise the internal climate of traditional dwellings. Lastly, users’ impact was quantified using Heat, Air and Moisture (HAM) numerical simulation. This allowed for the evaluation of the hygrothermal performance of walls under different internal climate scenarios. Combined results of interviews, environmental monitoring and simulation showed that internal climate can compromise envelope performance after the retrofit and highlighted the need to consider users in the decision making process. Ultimately, the results of this research will help to increase awareness about the potential impact of user behaviour and provide recommendations to decision makers involved in the energy retrofit of traditional structures.