Sustainable practices in office buildings: Applying social practice theory and reflective design interventions

Natalia Romero Herrera, Jantien Doolaard, Olivia Guerra Santin, Tomasz Jaskiewicz, David Keyson

Research output: Chapter in Book/Conference proceedings/Edited volumeConference contributionScientificpeer-review


Energy efficiency in office buildings has focused primarily on technological developments for the optimization of energy building performance. In this effort occupants’ behaviour has often been simplified or ignored. This in turn has resulted in solutions that either have a short-term impact on energy savings or in the long-term the measured impact differs largely from the theoretical estimations. A user-centric view is therefore needed to capture the
complexity of occupants’ behaviour in the design of energy saving technologies. Social practices theory describes this complexity as the everyday practices that are characterized by interactions between people’s diverse sets of values and competences and the materials of the environment in which they engage in. Whereas people are constantly adapting their environment to meet their needs, they often perceive an ‘inability to act’ when explicitly asked to change. This opens an opportunity for the design research community to reconsider
design interventions not as ends for behavioural change but as means to support
practitioners in their discovery and appropriation of materials, competences and values to achieve optimal changes. From a design research perspective supporting these processes requires methods that a) empower occupants to create, test and assess interventions and b) fit in their everyday activities. This paper presents an in-situ and practice-based design process implemented in Living Lab settings with methods that aim to support a multidisciplinary team in the development of reflective design interventions to empower active involvement of building occupants in appropriating changes. The paper presents
preliminary findings of an ongoing project and envisages future work to better understand hierarchy of practices and its potential impact on how occupants engage in changingactivities.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings of the 4th European Conference on Behaviour and Energy Efficiency (Behave 2016)
EditorsMarta A. R. Lopes, Carlos Henggeler Antunes, António Gomes Martins, Luís Silva
Place of PublicationCoimbra
PublisherINESC Coimbra
Number of pages12
ISBN (Print)978-989-95055-9-9
Publication statusPublished - 2016
EventBehave 2016: 4th European Conference on Behaviour and Energy Efficiency - Coimbra, Portugal
Duration: 8 Sept 20169 Sept 2016


ConferenceBehave 2016


  • Design interventions
  • sustainability
  • Social Practice Theory
  • Living Labs
  • in-situ & mixed methods
  • empowerment


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