Lived experiences of Passivhaus occupants using a grounded approach
The Passivhaus standard is a building methodology that was established in Germany in the 1990s. It uses a passive design strategy to achieve built environment comfort with minimum energy consumption. However, research shows that not every Passivhaus project has been successful in terms of its comfort and energy performance. Passivhaus is a representation of a high-performance, low-energy prototype of sustainable buildings, which, as a new building typology, embraces new ideas of comfort and accommodates a range of occupants who have different attitudes and expectations. Thus, the social grounding of such a new typology needs to be reconsidered. Understanding the phenomenon of Passivhaus living in the UK context forms the starting point of my research. In reflection of existing Passivhaus post-occupancy evaluation (POE) research in the UK, the majority of this research is focused on performance and frequently adopts an approach using prediction and computer simulation. Only a few studies have examined the Passivhaus system from an architectural design point of view. Research into its energy performance lacks a deeper connection with the occupants’ perception of comfort and the architectural design of the Passivhaus. This research focuses on the coherence of Passivhaus living and builds up a theoretical framework to understand the Passivhaus system in relation to occupants’ daily lives. It argues that by providing more possibilities and opportunities within the design of the built environment for adaptive behaviours and norms of sustainable living, as opposed to stressing energy efficiency and technological advances, the sustainability embodied in the Passivhaus standard can be further actualised. Previous research into the POE field of Passivhaus has employed a predominantly quantitative method. However, the small amount of research conducted using a qualitative approach demonstrates the potential benefits of gaining a better understanding of sustainability in people’s perceptions of comfort, their everyday practices and the nature of their energy use. The methodological approach for the proposed research will be qualitative in nature due to the need to understand highly context-bound experiential data. A mixed approach of quantitative and qualitative methods will be explored to collect and analyse data from various aspects related to the subject matter in order to draw valid conclusions. The research uses a combined framework of grounded theory methodology and a multiple case study approach as a way of taking a step back from empirical research and building up an inductive theory-building process. The combination of these two frameworks is tailored for this research, which enables them to complement each other. The research provides an exploration of Passivhaus living and an insight into the delicate relationship between the occupants and their domestic space. The study explores the shifting perception of comfort, the delicate relationship between habitat and inhabitant and the process of adaptation in the Passivhaus to understand the shaping of household behaviour in relation to different contexts and scenarios unique to the Passivhaus industry. The substantive theory that describes this relationship is summarised at the end of the thesis, with the aim of informing potential Passivhaus clients of the system’s holistic sustainable design features and to make recommendations for better Passivhaus design to building professionals.