The role of occupants in buildings’ energy performance gap: Myth or reality?

Ardeshir Mahdavi, Christiane Berger*, Hadeer Amin, Eleni Ampatzi, Rune Korsholm Andersen, Elie Azar, Verena M. Barthelmes, Matteo Favero, Jakob Hahn, Dolaana Khovalyg, Henrik N. Knudsen, Alessandra L. Navarro, Astrid Roetzel, Fisayo C. Sangogboye, Marcel Schweiker, Mahnameh Taheri, Despoina Teli, Marianne Touchie, Silke Verbruggen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review

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Buildings’ expected (projected, simulated) energy use frequently does not match actual observations. This is commonly referred to as the energy performance gap. As such, many factors can contribute to the disagreement between expectations and observations. These include, for in-stance, uncertainty about buildings’ geometry, construction, systems, and weather conditions. However, the role of occupants in the energy performance gap has recently attracted much atten-tion. It has even been suggested that occupants are the main cause of the energy performance gap. This, in turn, has led to suggestions that better models of occupant behavior can reduce the energy performance gap. The present effort aims at the review and evaluation of the evidence for such claims. To this end, a systematic literature search was conducted and relevant publications were identified and reviewed in detail. The review entailed the categorization of the studies according to the scope and strength of the evidence for occupants’ role in the energy performance gap. Moreover, deployed calculation and monitoring methods, normalization procedures, and reported causes and magnitudes of the energy performance gap were documented and evaluated. The results suggest that the role of occupants as significant or exclusive contributors to the energy performance gap is not sufficiently substantiated by evidence.

Original languageEnglish
Article number3146
JournalSustainability (Switzerland)
Issue number6
Number of pages44
Publication statusPublished - 12. Mar 2021


  • Buildings
  • Energy
  • Occupant behavior
  • Performance gap

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