Socio-energy approach within the technical diagnosis and diagnosis of use of buildings.

Tristan MAARAWI (Research firm N-clique)
Valentin RIBOULE (Research firm N-clique)
Pascal YERRO (Resarch firm AlterEne, member of Alter-Bâtir)

The socio-energy approach is the combination of sociology and energetic engineering study. It relies on crossing the technical energy diagnosis and the view of regular users and their perception of space use.
The socio-energy approach relies on a conviction: One should never dissociate the equipment efficiency and its modality of use when researching on water and energy consumption reduction and on greenhouse gases emissions.
Our team combines a multidisciplinary expertise in three major areas:
- Consumption diagnosis: study of the individual and collective behavior in a building through sociological surveys conducted in collaboration with the energetic engineers.
- Technical diagnosis: technical study about the energy consumption and dysfunction held by energetical engineers in cooperation with the sociologist.
- Coaching workshop: awareness sessions aiming at efficient consumption of water and energy.
The socio-energy approach is not only an addition of thermic, energetic and sociologic analysis: it is a real joint process between both fields (sociology and energetic engineering).
Our communication focuses on the involvement of sociologists in the socio-energy approach applied to a specific case (methods, results, relations between sociologists and engineers, limits and development paths of sociological energy approach).
During our intervention we use qualitative field investigations methods to observe and identify behaviors and perception about uses of water and energy in the building.
Thus, interviews are conducted with regular users of the building to obtain feedbacks on their own perception of dysfunctions, comfort and their related energy consumption.
In addition, some observation sessions are performed in the different spaces of the building in order to collect information. The objective is to generate data about the types of energetic dysfunctions and the type of energy consumption within the building. These data allow us to understand some dysfunction and to design a methodology to enhance our intervention in promoting “eco-gestures”.
Nevertheless, it is important to indicate the limits of our approach, which takes place in a specific time frame, to develop other perspectives.

KEY WORDS: methods, multidisciplinary approach, eco-gestures, low consumption buildings, diagnosis.

The energy issue and the scientific practices overhaul: « Radical interdisciplinary » between social and engineering sciences.


For several years, the energy transition is becoming a major issue for the spatial planning and management at different scales (national, regional, local, micro-local, city, city blocks, buildings, etc.). This emerging issue induced strong professional re-compositions for the actors involved in spatial planning, but also for researchers who are interested in energy issues. « Hybrid object » (Latour 1999), the energy issue intensely poses for researchers the questions of disciplinary interfaces and of theirs relationships to professional groups engaged in urban planning. Recent collectives researches lead on energy and developed at different scales are based on new interfaces created between social sciences (sociology, anthropology, geography) and physical sciences or engineering sciences (the atmospheric physics, urban engineering or building energy management).
This contribution proposes to clarify the process of radical interdisciplinary. Those dynamics imply researchers from different scientific traditions and disciplinary families that are unaccustomed to interact together and whose objects, cultures and methods differ fundamentally. Our aim is to precise : What are the differences in the disciplinary tropisms and the scientific cultures that occur in these new interdisciplinary consortia? What are comfort zones and blind spots of these disciplinary skills? What are the friction points in terms of methodological innovation generated by the meeting of these different scientific worlds around the issues of energy? How the knowledge, tools and methods of these researchers are articulated? And finally, what is the posture adopted by these two scientists entities when conducting research with professionals? This contribution offers a cross-analysis of methods of science production based on feedbacks of several collaborative researches on the energy issue involving collaboration between social sciences and physical sciences or engineering sciences.

KEY WORDS: scientific practices, interdisciplinary dynamics, working methods, methodology, disciplinary identity.

A socio-geographic approach for understanding the link between urban practices and energy practices.


In recent years, the research on energy practices in housing showed more consumers profiles, dependent on the age, standard of living, housing type, etc. An important lesson : the pursuit of comfort associated with a view to optimizing costs , greatly explains the practices. Beyond these criteria, CRIGEN sociologists have sought to test the interaction between urban practices, perceptions of the direct environment of the building on the level of investment from its housing as well as its energy practices.
The proposed Communication objects to demonstrate the relevance of socio-geographical analysis in order to refine the understanding of the energy practices within the housing. We mean by socio-geographic approach, adaptation of the Sociotope method developed in 2002 by Alexander Stähle. The latter is a tool for visualization and cartographic translation of perceptions and representations of the users of urban spaces considered (park , streets, outdoor equipment …). Originally designed in Stockholm, this method is to identify and analyze the social and/or cultural value of different spaces through qualitative surveys of residents. This communication aims to demonstrate how to better understand the practices at the heart of housing. In other words, we show how this approach allows to examine socio-geographical links between urban practices and energy practices.
At first, we present this methodology through an application within a consortium created around the a Garden City (Gerland – Lyon). After the evaluation of the socio-geographical analysis, strengths and room for improvement , we discuss some significant examples to understand the links between energy and urban practices.

KEY WORDS: socio-geographical approach , urban practices , energy practices , residents, users.

The role of sociology within an interdisciplinary smart grid project.

Grégoire WALLENBORN (Free University of Brussels/Center for Studies on Sustainable Development)
Georgia GAYE (Free University of Brussels/Center for Studies on Sustainable Development)

We have been working as sociologists on a research project on user flexibility and smart grid in Belgium, in which participated engineers, economists and companies. As social scientists we are sometimes at odd with this group that is grounded in different epistemic interests. This paper is a reflexive attempt at understanding how ideas and data circulate between different disciplines and what we can do as social scientists to do justice to our field observations. It is based on a double fieldwork. First, we have developed a theoretical framework based on practice theory, usage sociology and STS, and interviewed twice 29 users of heat pumps. Second, we have observed and interviewed our research partners in order to understand how they perceive our contribution to the common project.
We start with the analysis of the way concepts such as acceptance, resistance, engagement, appropriation, delegation, comfort, flexibility are used in the different disciplines (engineering, economics, sociology). We show which explicit and implicit assumptions about users’ capabilities frame the disciplinary ontologies. Users are patently absent from engineer’s and economist’s models, although they constitute obviously an important part of the smart grid development. We observe that environmental and collective considerations are usually lacking in current smart grid development because they do not belong to the engineer’s or economist’s ontology.
In order to examine how the dialogue between disciplines happens, we expand on the concepts of “boundary object” (Star & Griesemer 1989) and “obligation and requirement” (Stengers 2010) and analyse how ideas and data are translated and articulated between the disciplines. For instance, sociology requires us to pass on faithfully our fieldwork observations. But our obligation is also to provide partners with manageable information. The construction of user “profiles”, or “personas”, is then a way to establish boundary objects between distinct research practices. This is done however at the cost of reducing observations to manipulable entities.
We conclude with provisional reflexions about how to develop meeting points between disciplines that aim at performing sociotechnical devices, such as those met in smart grids.

KEY WORDS: smart grid, user, practice theory, STS, interdisciplinarity.