Estimating the influence of occupant behavior on building heating and cooling energy in one simulation run

Isabella Gaetani, Pieter Jan Hoes, Jan L.M. Hensen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

36 Citations (Scopus)
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Energy performance contracting (EPC) aims at guaranteeing a specified level of energy savings in the built environment for a client. Among the building energy performance uncertainties that hinder EPC, occupant behavior (OB) plays a major role. For this reason, energy service companies (ESCOs) may be interested in including OB-related clauses in their contracts. The inclusion of such a clause calls for an efficient, easy-to-implement method to provide a first estimate of the potential effect of various aspects of OB on building cooling and heating energy demand. In contrast with common sensitivity analysis approaches based on a high number of scenarios, a novel simulation method requiring only a single simulation run for both heating and cooling seasons is presented here. The estimate is provided by evaluating the newly developed impact indices (II) based on the results obtained by means of the simulation run. A set of 16 building variants differing in floor height, climate, construction vintage and equipment and lighting power density was investigated to test the method. All II were calculated for the 16 building variants. In order to verify their significance, the results of a one-at-a-time sensitivity analysis mimicking simplified variations in occupant behavior (OB) were plotted against the II. The R2 values were above 0.9 when evaluating the effect of equipment use, lights use, and occupant presence, confirming the significance of the developed II. For blind use and temperature setpoint setting, the R2 values were ca. 0.85. Subsequently, the method was applied to an existing office building in Delft, The Netherlands, to evaluate its potential for EPC. This study confirms the high variability of the effect of OB on heating and cooling energy demand according to the case at hand. The developed method is useful for practitioners to evaluate the potential effect of OB on a given design in a time-effective manner.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)159-171
Number of pages13
JournalApplied Energy
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2018


  • Building performance simulation
  • Energy performance contracting
  • Impact indices
  • Occupant behavior


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