The Human Dimensions of Energy Use in Buildings: A Review

TitleThe Human Dimensions of Energy Use in Buildings: A Review
Publication TypeReport
Year of Publication2017
AuthorsSimona D'Oca, Tianzhen Hong, Jared Langevin

The "human dimensions" of energy use in buildings refer to the energy-related behaviors of key stakeholders that affect energy use over the building life cycle. Stakeholders include building designers, operators, managers, engineers, occupants, industry, vendors, and policymakers, who directly or indirectly influence the acts of designing, constructing, living, operating, managing, and regulating the built environments, from individual building up to the urban scale. Among factors driving high-performance buildings, human dimensions play a role that is as significant as that of technological advances. However, this factor is not well understood, and, as a result, human dimensions are often ignored or simplified by stakeholders. This paper presents a review of the literature on human dimensions of building energy use to assess the state-of-the-art in this topic area. The paper highlights research needs for fully integrating human dimensions into the building design and operation processes with the goal of reducing energy use in buildings while enhancing occupant comfort and productivity. This research focuses on identifying key needs for each stakeholder involved in a building's lifecycle and takes an interdisciplinary focus that spans the fields of architecture and engineering design, sociology, data science, energy policy, codes, and standards to provide targeted insights. Greater understanding of the human dimensions of energy use has several potential benefits including reductions in operating cost for building owners;enhanced comfort conditions and productivity for building occupants;more effective building energy management and automation systems for building operators and energy managers; and the integration of more accurate control logic into the next generation of human-in-the-loop technologies. The review concludes by summarizing recommendations for policy makers and industry stakeholders for developing codes, standards, and technologies that can leverage the human dimensions of energy use to reliably predict and achieve energy use reductions in the residential and commercial buildings sectors.