RMIT Europe has gathered a number of experts from academia and industry to a half-day workshop on November 28, 2016 – “The social impacts of digitally-enabled energy efficiency in buildings: shaping sustainable energy futures”. The participants discussed energy consumption trends in the residential buildings’ sector, the possibilities that digital technologies could bring in understanding these trends and also in achieving reductions in energy consumption. Social impacts arising as a result of energy efficiency, energy conservation and renewable energy measures in residential housing has been at the center of presentations and discussions.
The workshop was opened by Marta Fernandez, the Executive Director of RMIT Europe and chaired by Sergio Tirado-Herrero. Marta presented the work and results of the European Construction, built environment and energy efficient building Technology Platform (ECTP).
The first panel was started by Sarah Pink, the Director of the Digital Ethnography Research Centre and Distinguished Professor in the School of Media and Communication at RMIT University, Melbourne, Australia. With the help of digital ethnography methods Sarah advocates for insightful and informed policy interventions that can be willingly and creatively accommodated in every day routines of energy users instead of from prescriptive behavioral change models that have dominated public policy lately. Via digital ethnography methods Sarah looks for 3 points for intervention: (1) everyday improvisation in dealing with technologies; (2) making the home feel ‘right’ and constructing energy demand profiles and (3) movement through the home in creating everyday routines. To learn more about Sarah’s work please visit Energy and Digital Living website. It hosts a number of video diaries on domestic energy consumption. Sarah also works on documenting domestic water use. See the trailer of the Laundry Lives here.
Valeria Ferrando, the Head of the EU Research at the Integrated Environmental Solutions Ltd (IES), Glasgow, UK presented their digital solutions cloud for smart cities, smart communities and smart buildings and talked about how big data paired with citizen science could help to plan refurbishing and decarbonizing of entire communities and cities. IES has developed a tool called the Intelligent Communities Lifecycle, that can facilitate the public policy cycle for smart cities of vision, planning, implementation, monitoring and feedback. Glasgow Energy App project has helped to evaluate the status quo and develop a vision – it mapped the building performance in the whole of Glasgow, allowed checking the performance of a building in comparison with the other in the neighborhood and energy efficiency benchmarks; and suggested measures to improve energy performance. The use of this technology in project INDICATE has helped to develop a decision support tool for urban planners for a dynamic assessment of energy demand, supply and optimization when integrating various low-carbon solutions in the communities. Project Umbrella aimed to create a simple tool to allow users to assess their options with regard to energy efficiency retrofit measures in their buildings allowing to compare costs and other performance outcomes.
Adrian Joyce, the Secretary General of the European Alliance of Companies for Energy Efficiency in Buildings (EuroACE) talked about challenges ahead of the European building sector in rendering substantial energy consumption reductions in line with climate change commitments and the EU directives. There are 210 million buildings in the EU-28 and their occupied space is equivalent to the area of Belgium. The replacement rate of buildings is slow and 90% of buildings used today will still be used in 2050. Therefore, only an ambitious building sector renovation policy could deliver energy consumption reductions – see Renovate Europe Campaign. Adrian emphasized the need to set a long-term vision for the building sector in the EU, to spread the news of the good practice cases (such as Energiesprong in the Netherlands), the need to target different segments differently (private vs public, owned or rented, socially vulnerable, commercial sector and etc), to speed up the learning curve and bring down the costs of renovation. He also talked about associated co-benefits of building renovation recognizing that domestic energy consumers are not concerned about energy efficiency per se, but rather about energy bills, comfort, health. He recognized that communication about energy efficiency policy goals to the wider public has to avoid the term “energy efficiency” to be effective. He reflected on changing communication landscapes – how do we communicate the message of energy efficiency in the post-truth era when communicating facts does not get the message across anymore?
Isabel Lacave Azpeitia, a researcher and Project Manager at the Acciona Infraestructuras Technology Center spoke about energy efficiency and renewable energy projects that Acciona is managing in Spain, Peru, Mexico and Turkey. Isabel focused on discussing social engagement strategies with the direct beneficiaries of these projects and a wider community of stakeholders. She also presented accounts of social and other co-benefits as a result of implementation of such projects.
CURE’s Nora Mzavanadze delivered the last presentation on social welfare gains associated with energy efficiency improvement actions in the building sector based on progress of the COMBI project in assessing literature review, assessment methodologies and the first quantification attempts. Nora focused her talk on discussing the evidence of health outcomes in relation to the quality of housing and reviewed the extent of exposure to different health risks in housing in the EU-28.