Background:In the last 30 years, the average energy consumption of one person has risen from 80 kgce to 204 kgce in Chinese rural areas. Considering rural areas in China occupy over a half of China's population, the study on energy usage of rural houses is crucial to the development of building energy efficiency of China. Researchers have conducted many studies on this situation, and the climate and technology are mainly considered in these studies. However, in recent years, great changes have taken place in terms of social factors of rural areas in China, for example, rural migration to the cities and gender imbalance. Some changes may lead the rural occupants to a highcarbon life-style. Objectives: This research exploits the data collected from rural houses in southwest China and aims to establish which factors relate to occupant social aspects, and to what extent affects energy-related characteristics in rural houses. We hypothesize, in rural houses, that the energy efficient design strategies are not only related to climatic and building envelope physical characteristics but also may be derived with the particular considerations on social factors. Methods:50 houses in Tongzi rural area of Chongqing city were selected as the samples. In this paper, the social factors lie in three folds in this research, occupants' demographics, life patterns, and behaviors. The energy-related characteristics embrace three aspects: Thermal comfort, predicted energy consumption, and heating methods. Measurements on energy usage and environmental performance were conducted for each house. Also, we used semistructured interviews on social factors for each family. The process of life patterns was observed by the researchers. In addition, statistics from the local government were used. The variables in this research are investigated by linear regression, one-way ANOVA, and contingency analysis. Results: This study shows the female group preferred to warmer thermal conditions and spent 33% more hours in kitchens which consume over 50% total building energy in rural houses. The group with more hours per day spent outside reported the lower level at the indoor operative temperature, compared with the group with more indoor hours (P-value is 0.042). In addition, two basic heating choices in winter were adopted by rural occupants: charcoal braziers (28.6%) and indoor sun exposure (71.4%). Also, the use of charcoal braziers compromised with aging.Conclusion: Although the climate and the building physical characteristics are crucial to building energy consumption and indoor environmental performance, this paper demonstrated that some social factors related to residents can affect the energy-related components, especially in the free running rural houses.
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