Dr Chris Foulds

Principal Research Fellow

Global Sustainability Institute

Faculty:Faculty of Science and Engineering

Location: Cambridge

Areas of Expertise: Consumption and change

Research Supervision:Yes

Chris is an interdisciplinary environmental social scientist, with a keen interest in how people (households or professionals) respond to interventions that target reductions in how much they consume.


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Chris joined the Consumption & Change theme of the Global Sustainability Institute as a Postdoctoral Research Fellow in October 2013, and subsequently became Senior Research Fellow in August 2015. Before joining the Institute, he completed his PhD in the School of Environmental Sciences at the University of East Anglia. He has a background in environmental sciences, and in particular climate change, sustainable energy, buildings, and digital economy. These interests have developed more recently in line with the disciplines of geography, sociology, and science and technology studies

Chris' current research interests tend to centre around the following four interrelated themes.

  1. Energy and built environment – the production and, in particular, consumption of energy within the building stock and how that relates to the wider built environment. This has led to, for example, consideration of the Passivhaus energy efficiency standard (which was a core focus of his PhD, 2010-13), the inevitability of the energy performance gap, the challenges associated with retrofitting, innovations in construction, and the lifecycle implications of all of this.
  2. Sustainable consumption and socio-technical change – how practices are organised, performed and thereby change over time. This has led to, for example, consideration of the consequences of intervening in resource-consuming practices, especially in relation to the wider socio-technical systems of which practices are a part and ultimately sustain through their repeated performance.
  3. Interdisciplinary and theoretically informed methods – how different disciplinary perspectives can work together to usefully inform one another, in addition to how theory can enable (and constrain) such mixed methods approaches. This has led to, for example, consideration of how to model social practices, as well as how traditional building monitoring techniques can assist in the tracing the performance of practices.
  4. The role of the researcher – the need to be reflexive about one’s positionality as a researcher, not only when doing the research itself, but also in considering when, why and how best to exchange knowledge and work with other stakeholders. This has led to, for example, consideration of what it means for research to be credible and the potential burden/usefulness of interdisciplinarity, as well as the hosting of numerous stakeholder events (eg led ESRC Festival of Social Science events in both 2014 and 2015).

Chris also has substantial experience of academic event organisation, including organising several conferences and workshops, as well as convening specific conference sessions. Moreover, in terms of teaching, Chris has supported several undergraduate and postgraduate research projects, as well as having contributed to numerous MSc and BSc modules, such as: Low Carbon Energy; Sustainable Consumption; Global Environment Challenges; Public Health; and Measuring and Monitoring Sustainability.

Research interests

Sociotechnical theories; Practices; Everyday life; Sustainable consumption; Energy demand; Built environment; Infrastructure; Housing; Passivhaus; Building monitoring; Digital feedback technologies; Professions; Societal transitions; Innovation; Climate change; Interdisciplinarity.

Areas of research supervision

  • Norbert Edomah (2014-2017), 'Nigeria's energy transitions: Policy decisions, influences and unintended consequences'
  • Obehi Sule (2014-), 'Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) in Higher Education institutions'
  • Marina Martinez (2015-), 'The emergence of alternative food businesses: Sustainability transitions in food provision'
  • Lauren Stabler (2016-), 'Envisioning Sustainability: A regional review of the East of England'


Chris contributes to our MSc Sustainability. He leads the 'Governance & Behavioural Change' module.


  • PhD, Environmental Social Sciences, University of East Anglia
  • MRes, Environmental Social Sciences, University of East Anglia
  • BSc(Hons), Environmental Sciences, University of East Anglia
  • PGCert, Higher Education, Anglia Ruskin University

Memberships, editorial boards

Research grants, consultancy, knowledge exchange

Selected recent publications

Journal articles
Books, collections and special issues
Book chapters
Other publications

Recent presentations and conferences

  • Robison, R.A.V. and Foulds, C., 2017. Perspectives on the social, political and cultural dynamics of energy: Developing a collective agenda for the social sciences and humanities, Paper presentations at the RGS-IBG conference on Decolonising geographical knowledges: opening geography out to the world. 29 August - 1 September 2017, London, UK.
  • Robison, R.A.V. and Foulds, C., 2017. Creating an interdisciplinary energy lexicon: Working with terminology differences in support of better energy policy, Proceedings of the eceee 2017 Summer Study on Consumption, Efficiency & Limits, paper 1-267-17. 29 May - 3 June 2017, Presqu'ile de Giens, France. pp. 121-130.
  • Christensen, T.H. and Foulds, C., 2016. Exploring the role of materials in practices and sustainability. Convened track at the 4S-EASST Conference on Science and technology by other means. 31 August – 3 September 2016, Barcelona, Spain.
  • Robison, R.A.V. and Foulds, C., 2016. Constructing policy feedback on energy feedback: when is feedback 'working'?, Paper presentation at the TEDDINET Energy Feedback Symposium, University of Edinburgh. 4-5 July 2016, Edinburgh, UK.
  • Foulds, C. and Green, M., 2016. Energy-consuming practices and agent-based modelling: Individuals as agents vs. practices as agents, Paper presentation at the WholeSEM workshop on Re-configuring Everyday Practices for a Post-carbon World, University of Surrey. 5-6 May 2016, Guildford, UK.
  • Foulds, C. and Green, M., 2016. Network management: Exploring its role, organisation and means of intervening in professional practices, Paper presentation at the DEMAND Centre Conference on What energy is for: the making and dynamics of demand, Lancaster University. 13-15 April 2016, Lancaster, UK.
  • Green, M. and Foulds, C., 2016. Characterising the Energy-Water Nexus: Developing a new framework and strategy for innovation in Europe, GSI Seminar. 16 March 2016, Chelmsford, UK.
  • Foulds, C., 2016. Developing a water-energy Nexus conceptual model and identifying thematic priorities, Energy in Water ESCP kick-off workshop. 9 February 2016, Leeuwarden, The Netherlands.
  • Foulds, C., 2015. Digital technologies: the boundaries between everyday & professional practices, Presentation at the Rhythms, routines and relationships: Daily life, digital technologies and energy demand working party event, The Urban Institute, University of Sheffield. 26-27 November 2015, Sheffield, UK.
  • Foulds, C., 2015. Responding to the forthcoming COP21 climate change targets: Different policy approaches to behaviour change, University of the Third Age (U3A). 28 November 2014, Cambridge, UK.
  • Foulds, C., 2015. Beyond Consumerism, Invited presentation to the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust’s Sustainable Futures funding committee. 22 October 2015, Bristol, UK.
  • Foulds, C., Robison, R. and Macrorie, R., 2015. Energy monitoring as a practice: Investigating use of the iMeasure online energy feedback tool, Faculty of Science and Technology Annual Research Conference. 7 July 2015, Chelmsford, UK.
  • Foulds, C., 2015. Configuring and configurations of practice(s)? Presentation at the Beyond Practices: Sustainable consumption and sociotechnical systems workshop, Sustainable Consumption Institute, University of Manchester. 25-26 June 2015, Manchester, UK.
  • Foulds, C., 2015. Education for Sustainability: the need to focus on practical know-how and learning by doing. Keynote presentation at the Eco-schools England Roadshow, 24 June 2015, Colchester, UK.
  • Foulds, C., Robison, R. and Macrorie, R., 2015. Energy monitoring as a practice: Investigating use of the iMeasure online energy feedback tool. Presentation at the Nordic Environmental Social Science Conference 2015: Contested Natures – new strategies, ideas and dialogues? 9-11 June 2015, Trondheim, Norway.
  • Foulds, C., 2015. What knowledge is the ‘right’ sort of knowledge? Presentation at Community Retrofit through Sustainable Technology: Sustainable Growth, Skills and Retrofit, Robinson College, University of Cambridge. 16 April 2015, Cambridge, UK.
  • Foulds, C., 2015. Can schools be models of sustainability? Moving from thinking differently to acting differently. Keynote presentation at the Sustainability and Environmental Education (SEEd) Annual Policy Forum, 26 March 2015, London, UK.
  • Foulds, C., 2014. Sustainable consumption policies: Comparing theoretical perspectives. Norah Boyce lecture series, University of the Third Age (U3A), 28 November 2014, Cambridge, UK.
  • Foulds, C. and Green, M., 2014. Planning for a built environment in a changing and uncertain world. GSI seminar. 13 November 2014, Chelmsford, UK.
  • Foulds, C., 2014. Why do energy efficiency projects rarely achieve anticipated savings? A theoretical comparison. Home Energy Liaison Group seminar, 5 August 2014, Cambridge, UK.
  • Foulds, C. and Robison, R., 2014. Investigating the influence of digital feedback technologies and the provision of long-term consumption data on everyday life. Midterm conference of ESA RN 12, in cooperation with ISA RC 24: 2nd Energy & Society Conference, 4-6 June 2014, Krakow, Poland.
  • Foulds, C., 2013. The Passivhaus Building Standard: Questioning the energy saving magic bullet. GSI seminar, 2 December 2013, Cambridge, UK.