Buildings up and down the country could have reduced carbon emissions and improved energy efficiency thanks to city researchers.

The University of Southampton is one of six universities that will share a pot of £4 million to introduce energy and cost saving in the UK’s non-domestic dwellings.

The money, which will be shared with Southampton along with Imperial College London, Cambridge, Edinburgh, Oxford, and Strathclyde, has been put forward by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council on behalf of the Research Councils UK Energy Programme, and the Technology Strategy Board.

Non-domestic buildings, such as offices, supermarkets, hospitals, and factories, account for around 18 per cent of the country’s carbon emissions and 13 per cent of final energy consumption.

It is hoped the research will address how to use technology, data and information, and mathematics and sociology, to create better energy strategies and behaviours in public and private, non-domestic buildings.

The Southampton project was awarded £493,000 of funding and will examine how external digital cameras can be used to monitor how windows, blinds and lighting are used and how occupants’ needs, such as privacy, comfort and security, can be balanced with energy management.

Project leader Professor Patrick James, a senior lecturer in engineering and the environment at the University of Southampton, said: “In a domestic setting, a householder is directly responsible for the energy bills and would therefore not consciously leave a window open overnight in the winter.

“In an office environment however, there is no financial driver for people to behave in the same energy efficient manner.

“While there may be a strong reason to open a window in an office (stuffiness, high temperature), the driver to close the window (energy awareness) may be very weak unless there is an additional driver such as external noise, rain or a security risk.

Challenge “This poses a real challenge to the facilities manager, ‘happy productive users’ prefer control of the façade, which is what well designed non-domestic building environments should provide, but providing this control introduces significant energy performance risk.”

Prof Philip Nelson, EPSRC’s Chief Executive and former Pro Vice-Chancellor at the University of Southampton, added: “Improving energy efficiency is an important piece of the energy puzzle.

“Worldwide energy demand is rising, as are global temperatures and sea levels. We need to find smart solutions to how we use energy while improving the environment in which people have to work, rest or play.

“These projects will go a long way to help improve our understanding of what goes on in non-domestic buildings and add to the armoury at the disposal of those managing these facilities.”