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Buildings don't use energy: people do

Posted by Cathy Debenham on 7 April 2011 at 10:46 am

Smart buildings aren't the solution to reducing energy use, smart people are, according to research by Kathryn Janda of the UK Energy Research Centre. 

Architects can specify "zero-energy" homes, which are designed to be energy efficient and produce their own energy through solar power, but actual energy usage will vary according to how the residents live. Studies in America found that although consumption of energy in the zero energy homes was less than that in neighbouring 'normal' homes, there was a similar variance with high, medium and low energy users in both type of house.

Dr Janda found that people's energy-using behaviour is not always reasoned and predictable, so education and information to correct that behaviour may not be enough to bring about change.

"In the face of climate change, purely architectural solutions are necessary, but by themselves, not sufficient," says Dr Janda. 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."

Photo by Tom Chance

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