Energy efficiency is ignoring people power

A report on energy efficiency warns that ‘people power’ is being ignored in favour of an over-focus on technological solutions to climate change. The UK Energy Research Centre argues that […]

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By Kelvin Ross

A report on energy efficiency warns that ‘people power’ is being ignored in favour of an over-focus on technological solutions to climate change.

The UK Energy Research Centre argues that more time should be spent educating consumers on energy use rather than relying on technologies like smart meters to cut consumption.

According to report author Dr Kathryn Janda, around half of energy consumption is down to an individual’s personal choices. Therefore, she argues, educating people about energy efficiency is just as valuable as low carbon buildings or the roll out of smart meters.

Dr Janda said: “Often buildings don’t perform as expected, partially because occupants behave in more complex ways than designers account for; they open windows, leave doors open, generate body heat, keep tropical fish tanks and install plasma TV screens.”

She added: “In the face of climate change, purely architectural solutions are necessary, but by themselves, not sufficient. The UK government has declared that new homes must be zero-carbon by 2016. Experience with ‘zero energy’ homes shows us that designers cannot do this alone. They will need to work with users to deliver comprehensive energy reductions. Preparing the public for this interactive role is a job in itself – and one that architects are well placed to deliver.”

UK Energy Research Centre executive director John Loughhead said Dr Janda’s research “shows that trying to achieve carbon reduction and sustainability for buildings solely through tightened design standards simply will not work”.

He added: “A much better understanding of energy use in practice is essential if architects and those responsible for our built environment are to meet targets for energy saving.”