Topic Lunch Presentation – “Mapping personal thermal comfort – an application to dwellings” by Stephanie Gauthier (UCL Energy Institute)

By Stephanie Gauthier, on 29 November 2012

What do people do to warm-up when they become too cold in their home?

This simple question is both surprisingly important and hard to answer. It is important because about a sixth of all the UK’s energy is used to heat homes. It is hard to answer because most of what people do is done out of habit, and they find it hard to reliably remember these habits and tell us about them.

This lunch presentation introduced the methods applied in my PhD project, where a mixed-methods framework is used to map people’s daily activity, by measuring environmental and physiological variables. One of the key aims is to gather accurate measurements using ‘discreet’ observatory systems in order to have a minimum impact on occupants’ behaviour. By using ubiquitous sensors a rich picture of people’s variability in daily activity can be drawn over continuous timeframe. See the example output below showing monitored heart-rate and accelerometer output over a 2 hours sequence for 1 participant. The results from both sensors were combined, and then validated by a visual diary.

In conclusion, mapping occupants’ thermal discomfort responses can potentially help understand, conceptualise and influence some of the practices driving energy demand.

Publications of this research may be found under this link:

This presentation was given as part of the Environmental Sustainability Topic Lunch Series.

Topic Lunch Presentation – “Urbanisation in China” by Alastair McMahon (BioRegional)

By Rosemary Willatt, on 7 November 2012

Alastair McMahon Last Monday Alastair McMahon (BioRegional) gave the third presentation of the Environmental Sustainability Topic Lunch series entitled “Urbanisation in China.”

Alastair discussed recent changes in Chinese styles of living such as rural-to-urban migration, with 350 million new urban dwellers predicted by 2020, and a shift from an export-focussed to a consumer-focussed economy.


These changes, combined with economic pressures, present several sustainability challenges for China.

The grid carbon intensity is twice that of the UK since generation is mostly from coal. Alastair showed a photo of a barge which collects coal from riverside coal distribution docks on the Yangtze River.

The explosion in residential development, mostly in the form of high-rise buildings, are typically arranged in large gated communities with limited shared space and access to public services and retail, thus encouraging car use.

Waste disposal by incineration is expanding, threatening traditional waste reuse and recycling through informal networks.

Thank you Alastair for a very interesting presentation and we look forward to the next presentation on November 26th:

Stephanie Gauthier (UCL Energy Institute) “Mapping personal thermal comfort – an application to dwellings”

To see the full list of upcoming presentations visit the Environmental Sustainability Topic Lunch page.