Situations, Sites, Sectors

Future demand depends on the energy intensity of end use practices and how they change. But which end use practices are changing, at what rate and with what implications for energy demand and CO2-emissions? How do technological innovations, infrastructures and institutions shape innovations in end use practices, and how are they shaped by them? How do interpretations of normality and need evolve? The DEMAND Centre investigates these questions by looking at specific situations, sites and sectors. The common aim is to assess the implications for energy use and for current and new forms of demand management.

Domestic IT Use

There is no indication that the proliferation of domestic IT/media is slowing. To actively manage demand associated with this new ‘era’ of electrification, we need to know how IT/media has become embedded, and how it has infiltrated, ‘individualised’ and transformed so many areas of practice. While the power draw from individual devices has decreased, the number installed and being powered has risen spectacularly: so much so that people often have several devices running at once.

DEMAND research focuses on three demand-critical aspects: what infrastructures do these devices presume? How do IT devices transform other practices, for example, home shopping, planning trips, watching TV, and with what implications for energy demand? How do IT devices, especially portable ones, influence where end use practices take place, and hence where energy is sourced.

  • Morley, J. and Lord, C.(2016)  Changing connections: Wifi, tablets and evolving systems of connectivity (PDF), Paper prepared for DEMAND Centre Conference, Lancaster, 13-15 April 2016. This paper represents a combined effort to connect our research into two aspects of the Internet’s expanding ‘system of connectivity’: the emergence of Wi-Fi and of tablet computers. In their own right both are fascinating cases for exploring change associated with emerging technologies. Yet Wi-Fi and tablet computers are inherently interconnected to one another. By combining these cases, this paper highlights aspects of the evolution of this system of connectivity over time in a way that would not be possible by focusing on one device or the other.
  • Hazas, M. (2015) Society pushes to go faster, but data binges carry environmental costs,  The Conversation, January 27, 2015. Given the resources marshalled to support continued rises in data volume and ever-faster speeds, we should also be debating what kinds of digital services have real social importance. It’s great that it’s so easy to keep in contact with close friends and family, almost anywhere in the world. Yet at a time when we are battling to keep carbon emissions under control, can we really justify the energy consumption involved in streaming cat videos in ever-higher definition?
  • Bates, O., M. Hazas, A. Friday, J. Morley, A. Clear (2014) Towards an holistic view of the energy and environmental impacts of domestic media and IT, Proceedings of the SIGCHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI ’14). ACM Press: New York, 1173-1182. DOI: 10.1145/2556288.2556968. To date, research in sustainable HCI has dealt with ecofeedback, usage and recycling of appliances within the home, and longevity of portable electronics such as mobile phones. However, there seems to be less awareness of the energy and greenhouse emissions impacts of domestic consumer electronics and information technology. This research paper discusses more fruitful directions that sustainable HCI research might take.
  • Hazas, M. and Morley, J. (2016)  The next frontier in our digital revolution. Submission to UK Digital Strategy. The DEMAND Centre responded to UK Digital Strategy’s call for evidence on ‘The next frontier in our digital revolution’ and focus on how resilience and energy demand must be considered alongside economic growth.
  • Lord, C., Hazas, M., Clear, A. K., Bates, O., Whittam, R., Morley, J. and Friday, A. (2015) Demand in My Pocket: Mobile Devices and the Data Connectivity Marshalled in Support of Everyday Practice [PDF]. In: Begole, B., Kim, J., Inkpen, K. and Woo, W., eds. Proceedings of CHI Conference: One of a CHInd, Toronto, Canada. ACM, 2729-2738. DOI: 10.1145/2702162. This paper empirically explores the role that mobile devices have come to play in everyday practice, and how this links to demand for network connectivity and online services. After a preliminary device-logging period, thirteen participants were interviewed about how they use their iPhones or iPads. Our findings build a picture of how, through use of such devices, a variety of daily practices have come to depend upon a working data connection, which sometimes surges, but is at least always a trickle.
  • Wiig, A. (2016) Demanding connectivity: the co-production of mobile communication through electrical and digital infrastructures (PDF), Paper prepared for DEMAND Centre Conference, Lancaster, 13-15 April 2016. Supporting ubiquitous digital communication is both the infrastructure of wireless connectivity but also the wired, global telecommunications systems of the internet itself. These systems require not-insignificant amounts of electricity. Conceptualizing the energy demand of mobile communication begins by considering the interweaving of infrastructures with expectations of constant service pulsing through social practices of connectivity and charging.

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Home Heating

Conventions of comfort have changed significantly over the last few decades. Our research on the design of council houses and home heating systems in Stocksbridge (near Sheffield) and Stevenage, combined with detailed oral histories from people who have lived in these houses at different points in the past provides new insights into the relationship between infrastructures, daily rhythms and the uses of space in the home.

  • Carlsson-Hyslop, A. (2016). Past Management of Energy Demand: Promotion and Adoption of Electric Heating in Britain 1945-1964. Environment and History, 22, 75-102. DOI: 10.3197/096734016X14497391602242. This paper discusses electric heating in early post-war Britain, which was seen as a particularly problematic energy use, as electric fires were used at peak times. The Electricity Development Association (EDA) tried simultaneously to reduce undesirable peak demand while encouraging increased demand more generally. The paper concludes that, while demand management has been attempted by the electricity industry since well before the 1970s, these attempts only had a limited effect on the overall trend towards increasing demand, in part to do with how these promotions were adopted.

Daily rhythms and energy use in Stevenage

Central heating comes to Stevenage

These short picture books were produced for an event at the Stevenage Museum, looking at how energy use in everyday life has changed between 1950 and the present. The picture books describe the different kinds of home heating that Stevenage residents had lived with, and how that impacted daily life. These stories tell a larger tale about how infrastructures and practices evolve together.

  • Rinkinen, J., Jalas, M. and Shove, E. (2015). Object Relations in Accounts of Everyday Life [PDF], Sociology 49(5), 870-885. DOI: 10.1177/0038038515577910. By drawing on an archive of diary material, this article illustrates multi-faceted object relations with reference to the example of keeping warm. It uses experience of keeping warm to characterise tactics,  judgements and engagements with objects that extend beyond the ‘mere’ enactment of social practice. In analysing these encounters we explore ways of conceptualising the object-world that are especially relevant for studies of everyday life.
  • Shove, E. and Royston, S. (2014) Smart meters don’t make us any smarter about energy use. The Conversation. Energy bills are higher on the political agenda than ever before and we are constantly being told that devices such as smart meters will help us make better decisions and take control of the energy we use. But evidence shows that these new technologies are not making us more savvy.
  • Transitions in heat – the arrival and disappearance of gas central heating, Research Insight 7, DEMAND Centre. Gas central heating accounts for a significant proportion of the residential sector’s UK greenhouse gas emissions but its introduction was not a matter of one technology replacing another. With current proposals to reduce these emissions to ‘almost zero’ by 2050, examining the introduction of gas central heating and its related practices has implications for future changes to how we heat our homes.

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Offices and Office Work

Commercial, industrial and public sector buildings account for around 20% of UK CO2 emissions. Our work on offices shows 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.

A study of the design and specification processes associated with building and refurbishing ten commercial office buildings in London has provided 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 and ‘power loads’.

  • Cass, N (2016) Report on the ISF/Demand Workshop on Office (Work) Futures.  A workshop funded by the Institute for Social Futures was held on June 22nd on ‘Office (Work) Future(s)’, where a group of academics and practitioners discussed how changes in office buildings and increasingly flexible and mobile work practices might develop in the future. The attendees included academics from Lancaster, Leeds, Leicester, Cambridge and Sheffield, Cathy Garner from the Work Foundation and Lancaster University’s Energy Manager Jan Bastiaans. The basis of discussions were presentations made by attendees in response to a background document [.pdf] prepared before the event
  • De Decker, K (November 2016). The Curse of the Modern Office The information society promises to dematerialise society and make it more sustainable, but modern office and knowledge work has itself become a large and rapidly growing consumer of energy and other resources.
  • Faulconbridge, J., Cass, N. and Connaughton, J. (2016) Standards, design and energy demand: the case of commercial offices (PDF), Paper prepared for DEMAND Centre Conference, Lancaster, 13-15 April 2016. This paper examines the influence of ‘market standards’ on the design and energy demand of speculative office buildings.  The paper argues that standards designed to reduce escalating energy consumption can have the opposite effect.
  • Understanding buildings and their uses, sound bite by John Connaughton, who talks about the importance of examining the social practices that are carried out in buildings in order to understand energy demand.
  • Demanding offices – How market standards drive up energy demand, Research Insight 6, DEMAND Centre. Research into how those procuring and letting office buildings increase energy demand by following ‘market standards’. Office design is heavily influenced by these standards to create offices that are flexible and high-specification but alternative designs can reduce demand while being desirable.

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Business Travel

Business travel accounts for 20% of journeys over 50 km, and for 25% of domestic and international flights, but what are these trips for? How do needs for co-presence relate to trends in organisational and economic practice such as outsourcing, knowledge production, conferences and training, recruiting, demonstrating and selling? Which occupations are the most travel-intensive and why? While much research has been done, there is still more to learn about the evolving demand for business travel.

  • The evolving demand for business travel, sound bite in which James Faulconbridge talks about the changes in demand for business travel across time and sectors, the evolution of business travel and the implications for future demand.
  • Strengers, Y. (2014) Fly or die: air travel and the internationalisation of academic careers, Demand blog, June 4, 2014. Business air travel is on the rise globally, especially in knowledge organisations such as universities. Academics who study energy consumption, climate change and sustainability find themselves in an especially awkward position. Their job is to develop ideas about how to reduce and address a growing list of environmental and energy problems, but to take these ideas to audiences around the world they ‘need’ to travel.
  • Strengers, Y. and Bille, M. (2016) The temporal dynamics of being an international visiting scholar, Demand blog, May 16, 2016. Academia is increasingly concerned with international connections and collaboration. While the benefits of such endeavours are increasingly discussed, we rarely acknowledge their effects. In this short piece of writing we are interested in the ways in which one globalising move — the appointment of the ‘visiting academic’ — disrupts and rearranges the temporal routines of academics’ everyday lives.
  • Jones, I., Anable, J., Falconbridge, J. and Marsden, G. (2016) Understanding how enacting business practices maintains and generates demand for business travel. Paper presented at the World Conference on Transport Research, Shanghai, July 2016.


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Online Shopping

We are looking at how demand for internet shopping is creating a demand for delivery. Light van traffic has grown by 30% since 2001 and in 2010 accounted for 41 billion miles travelled whilst car traffic levels have grown by only 1% over the same period. This trend, which represents a major challenge for reducing energy use in the transport sector, is in part related to the extensive growth of home delivery linked to teleshopping and online purchasing. One of the key questions is how methods and systems of shopping and delivering might be steered with consideration of the implications for CO2-emissions.

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Older People and Mobile Lives

Mobility amongst older people constitutes a significant and growing area of demand. The population is ageing and on average health and life expectancy on retirement has increased. Older people are making more long distance trips than ever before and there is evidence that travel is a major aspiration for those who retire. Mobility is often encouraged as a means of ensuring wellbeing and combating social isolation..

  • Hitchings, R., Day, R., Venn, S., and Fox, E. (2016) Our time now? Entitlement and post retirement leisure travel, Paper prepared for DEMAND Centre Conference, Lancaster, 13-15 April 2016. Retirement increases leisure time and with the greater availability of time often comes for many people the possibility of travel of all kinds whether it is for its own sake, as in tourism, or in order to engage in other leisure activities or to spend time with friends. In-depth interviews with older people in the UK show that the notion of retirement as a time of personal fulfilment and reward is certainly present, but to what extent and with what implications for travel and resultant energy demand?

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Local Smart Grids

The role of the electricity meter has been re-invigorated by the wider digitalisation of data systems and infrastructures, for example, some meters will now transmit data every half-hour or on a second-by-second basis and can be flexibly positioned to record energy flow following various logics, not just for billing customers. In the domestic space, the “new” meter has become known as a ‘smart’ meter, while in the non-domestic world of businesses and public sector organisations, the ‘advanced meters’ have been ‘smart’ for some time. These types of electricity meters are now becoming increasingly significant and integral to visions of low carbon energy futures.  Yet, in what ways do these meter data infrastructures and practices generate possibilities for the governance of energy demand? In this research, we are particularly interested in the work of sub-metering within large businesses and organisations as well as with metering associated with demand-response contracts. We are interested in how metering and data infrastructures are integral to new expectations about how demand will be governed and made flexible, and how electricity flows are being re-monetised  through their mobilisation as data

Kragh-Furbo, M and Walker, G (2016) Metering Work, Meaning, Value, Governance (PDF), paper presented at the 3rd Energy & Society Conference, Leipzig, Germany, 11-14 September 2016


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Cooking and Cooling in Asia

We know that energy-demanding technologies like fridge-freezers are spreading around the world. How do these and other standardised appliances become part of established and previously very variable routines and habits of cooking and cooling? To understand how practices converge and diverge globally, the DEMAND centre conducted empirical fieldwork in Bangkok and Hanoi, both locations which allowed us to examine , recent and projected rapid changes in systems of provision, patterns of domestic practice and related technological devices.

  • Rinkinen, J. and Smits, M. (2016) Conceptualising conjunctions: understanding change in energy related practices in urban southeast Asia, Paper prepared for DEMAND Centre Conference, Lancaster, 13-15 April 2016. This paper, which is based on empirical fieldwork conducted in Bangkok, Thailand and Hanoi, Vietnam in February and March 2016, focuses on energy demanding practices which seem to converge and travel between societies.  It highlights the importance of ‘conjunctions’ of practice, alongside instances and examples of product diffusion.
  • Smits, M. (2016) Unpacking convergence/divergence: comparing elements, practices and conjunctions of middle-class households in Bangkok and Hanoi (PDF), Paper prepared for DEMAND Centre Conference, Lancaster, 13-15 April 2016. Energy demand is growing in many parts of the world, in particular in non-OECD countries. While there are still big gaps between levels of energy consumption in different countries some of these are closing rapidly. This convergence in levels of consumption and demand has been widely discussed in social science literature. However, lots of questions remain. What is it exactly that is converging or diverging? Is it energy systems, culture, objects, ideas or practices? Within these, what is different and what remains similar?

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Car Dependence

There is a tendency to think of people or places as ‘car-dependent’. In looking at which activities come before and after moments when people use the car, we have been able to identify a selection of especially ‘car-dependent’ practices. For example, cars are associated with practices involving ‘cargo’: shopping, transporting people, and pets. Understanding which practices ‘car-driving’ relates to is a first step in challenging contemporary systems of automobility.

  • Carrying capacity: the cargo function of the car, Research Insight 3, DEMAND Centre. Analysis of the broad categories of journey purpose measured in the UK National Travel Survey shows that some activities are more car dependent than others. This Research Insight focuses on the use of the car to transport purchases, equipment or other cargo including pets and other people, a function that is overlooked in attempts to understand and influence patterns of car dependency.
  • Car related economic stress – is there a transport equivalent of fuel poverty?, Research Insight 9, DEMAND Centre. Fuel poverty is defined as having high domestic energy costs and low household income but there is no official measure of transport poverty. This research insight draws comparisons between the concepts of fuel poverty and transport poverty and proposed metrics for measuring transport affordability.
  • Shove, E., Watson, M. and Spurling, N. (2015). Conceptualising Connections: Energy Demand, Infrastructures and Social Practices. European Journal of Social Theory, 18(3), 274-287. DOI: 10.1177/1368431015579964. This article focuses on the task of understanding and analyzing car dependence, using this as a case through which to introduce and explore what we take to be central but underdeveloped questions about how infrastructures and complexes of social practice connect across space and time.
  • Spurling, N. (2014) Tesla’s techno-cars are the right answer to the wrong question, The Conversation, June 9, 2014. The technology of the Tesla car is certainly impressive but it is concerning to see innovations of this kind being promoted as the key to a more sustainable future – especially if they come at the expense of pursuing other ways to solve the problem such as reducing the demand for mobility in the first place.
  • Mattioli, G. and Colleoni, M. (2016). Transport Disadvantage, Car Dependence and Urban Form. In: Pucci, P. and Colleoni, M. (eds.) Understanding Mobilities for Designing Contemporary Cities. Springer. In a more mobile world, the ability to cover greater distances and access to motorised means of transport are increasingly important for access to services and opportunities and, as a result, for social status and inclusion. In this chapter, we put forward an integrated conceptualisation of transport disadvantage, and briefly review the policy options to tackle transport disadvantage, providing concrete examples of the measures proposed and implemented in a number countries.
  • McDonald, N., Mattioli, G. and Marsden, G. (2017) Understanding the Impact of the Changing Labour Market on Millennial Mobility: A study of the UK experience 1995-2014. Conference paper to 89th US Transportation Research Board, Washington D.C. 9-14 January 2017.  The last few decades have seen a shift towards lower employment and more part-time, casual employment for young adults in the UK as well as in other developed countries. This may explain some of the reduced driving among ‘millennials’. In this conference paper we use National Travel Survey data to investigate to what extent the decrease in car use among young adults (18-30 years old) in England between 1995-2014 is due to changes in their economic situation. We find mixed evidence for the hypothesis that there is a strong link between changing labour market participation and changing mobility patterns.
  • The cargo function of cars, sound bite in which Giulio Mattioli explains what is meant by the cargo function of cars, where cars are used to carry bulky items such as shopping or to transport a dependent child, and how this relates to car dependency.

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