Theses Doctoral

Leveraging Human-environment Systems in Residential Buildings for Aggregate Energy Efficiency and Sustainability

Xu, Xiaoqi

Reducing the energy consumed in the built environment is a key objective in many sustainability initiatives. Existing energy saving methods have consisted of physical interventions to buildings and/or behavioral modifications of occupants. However, such methods may not only suffer from their own disadvantages, e.g. high cost and transient effect, but also lose aggregate energy saving potential due to the oftentimes-associated single-building-focused view and an isolated examination of occupant behaviors. This dissertation attempts to overcome the limitations of traditional energy saving research and practical approaches, and enhance residential building energy efficiency and sustainability by proposing innovative energy strategies from a holistic perspective of the aggregate human-environment systems.

This holistic perspective features: (1) viewing buildings as mutual influences in the built environment, (2) leveraging both the individual and contextualized social aspects of occupant behaviors, and (3) incorporating interactions between the built environment and human behaviors. First, I integrate three interlinked components: buildings, residents, and the surrounding neighborhood, and quantify the potential energy savings to be gained from renovating buildings at the inter-building level and leveraging neighborhood-contextualized occupant social networks. Following the confirmation of both the inter-building effect among buildings and occupants' interpersonal influence on energy conservation, I extend the research further by examining the synergy that may exist at the intersection between these "engineered" building networks and "social" peer networks, focusing specifically on the additional energy saving potential that could result from interactions between the two components.

Finally, I seek to reach an alignment of the human and building environment subsystems by matching the thermostat preferences of each household with the thermal conditions within their apartment, and develop the Energy Saving Alignment Strategy to be considered in public housing assignment policy. This strategy and the inter-building level energy management strategies developed in my preceding research possess large-scale cost-effectiveness and may engender long-lasting influence compared with existing energy saving approaches. Building from the holistic framework of coupled human-environment systems, the findings of this research will advance knowledge of energy efficiency in the built environment and lead to the development of novel strategies to conserve energy in residential buildings.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Civil Engineering and Engineering Mechanics
Thesis Advisors
Culligan, Patricia J.
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
July 16, 2013