Negotiating needs and expectations in commercial buildings

Timeline: October 2014 – November 2015

Our team includes: John Connaughton, James Faulconbridge, Noel Cass

Some of our key questions include:

  • How, and by whom, are users’ needs for heating, ventilation, cooling, lighting and ‘small power’ defined and negotiated at the different stages of design, occupancy and refurbishment?
  • How do past methods of defining and meeting users’ ‘needs’ structure future opportunities for demand management?
  • How can rising standards and increasingly resource intensive expectations be curbed at different stages in a building’s life?

And these are some of the ideas we are engaging with:

John Connaughton discusses how this project, and the DEMAND centre, will contribute valuable insights to the construction and building management sectors:

Commercial, industrial and public sector buildings account for around 20% of UK CO2 emissions. The purpose of this project is to show how understandings of ‘normal’ standards are made, how competing interpretations of acceptable, marketable and desirable office environments are resolved and where opportunities lie for managing energy demand by negotiating user needs at different points in the building lifecycle.

This research explores the design and specification processes associated with building and refurbishing 10 commercial office buildings in London. The aim is to develop insights into how escalating expectations and standards of assumed user needs are designed into the fabric and services of buildings, creating rising ‘designed in’ energy demand, in particular because of choices about cooling systems.

Ten buildings speculatively built or refurbished since 2010 are studied, including 3 built in the 1980s, and one in the 1960s which has been refurbished twice. The buildings variy by: single/multiple tenancy; ownership and development modes; location; size; and HVAC servicing.

To understand design and specification processes, we use interviews with the project architect and Mechanical & Electrical (M&E) engineering consultant for each building, and one or more of associated letting agents, developers, consultants, and/or occupiers. Interviews with a number of other M&E and building design specialists, leading sustainable office architects, property developers and managers, letting agencies, and those from the key institutions involved in setting office design standards and guidelines also inform our analysis.

Click here to find out more about the key findings of our research

For more detailed information about how the project fits into the Demand Research Programme you can read the 13-page DEMAND research summary.