The more I read about energy awareness, the more I understand that people lack a mental model to understand energy. From the day we are born, we consider energy as something inexhaustible that should be there…We never question how do we get energy, in what cost (impact etc.), and how much we consume…
The reason that we lack this understanding, is that we never experimented as consumers with energy. Experimenting, through Feedback and Reflection can change our mental model and thus our behavior. Like the ancient, Chinese philosopher Lao Tse once said:
“What I hear, I forget. What I see, I remember. What I do, I understand”.
Hence, I think that co-design, has a key role to play in my project. Energy awareness is a social learning process, that requires active participation and creativity from the people to develop their own ways of conserving energy. Gaver states “By impelling people to interpret situations for themselves it encourages them to start grappling with systems and their contexts and thus to establish deeper and more personal relations with the the meanings offered by those systems.”
So, lets co-design?
To understand how wrong is the mental model behind the energy bills we have to pay every month, Kempton and Laynes, give a very nice example:
“…consider groceries in a hypothetical store totally without price markings billed via a monthly statement…How could grocery shoppers economize under such a billing regime?”
I just attended an atrocious speech by Rodney Fitch, talking about his company Fitch, which is specialized on brand experience and retail design. I am not criticizing the company, which is worldwide successful designing obviously excellent consumer experiences and interactions (e.g for LEGO), but the man himself.
I just don’t accept a man in the sacred place of a university, where personalities and characters are shaped, to preach from his pedestal literally that “The purpose of life is shopping“…I just don’t accept it! In the end Mr. Fitch closed his presentation with a beautiful but completely superficial video about sustainable supermarkets, where he visions supermarkets with no parking lots, but car parks (really, what’s the difference?) and more “sustainable ideas”…
Congrats Mr. Fitch!
I just returned from the library of Architecture, where I borrowed a book from the always inspiring Ezio Manzini from Polytecnico di Milano. About the book I will write another time; now I want to focus on the visit itself, which left me with a big smile on the face.
The faculty of Architecture, for the ones that don’t live in Delft, was burned down last May. Immediately the TUDelft decided to transfer Architecture to an old building of the university, and restore the building to meet the functions of the faculty. What surprises me , is not only how fast the building was restored but also how inspiring the building itself is. The high ceilings, the wide corridors, the big windows etc. bring another atmosphere in the air than the modernistic, block that Architecture was before the fire. While, the interior is very modern, and stylish…I don’t know about its sustainability aspect.
An even bigger surprise, was my visit to the “White Rose” (De Witte Roos), the building that is going to be sustainably renovated in Delft and I will contribute to with my project. It’s an amazing monument, from the 16th century, where you can still feel its luxurious and glorious past (photos are coming…).
What I am trying to say here is that building restoration can really go hand in hand with sustainability. Not only it requires less resources (no excavation, no building etc), but also leads to a well being where cultural heritage and urban cohesion is preserved. Really, how wonderful it is to study in the same building with your grand or grand-grandfather…?
We talk about sustainability, global warming, catastrophic theories etc, but we cannot really sympathize as we don’t have tangible examples of the impact of our actions… The story of Tuvalu might change a little of our perception. Tuvalu is a little, remote island somewhere in the Pacific Ocean, which is in danger of getting washed away by the sea. Plans for evacuation are being made, as the threat looks very serious…
Are we going to see photos like this in the future, but with Dutch holding the banners? I hope not…
Looking for ways to conserve energy, I have came across a lot of beautiful designs that they focus on the daily interaction between user-product to construct our conception on energy. For instance “The Element”, a radiator constructed from 35, 60Watt incandescent light-bulbs aims to trigger the mindset of the user.
As the designers state: “direct…feedback…[may]…help consumers build conceptual models of how energy-consuming devices behave in different situations making the perception of electricity less abstract.” For example, by cranking the thermostat all the way does not cause the lights to glow brighter more quickly (the thermostat is just a switch, not a valve). Another such smart design is “The Energy Curtain” The list of smart designs goes on and on…but I am still wondering; do we, designers, have to add another product, to achieve our goal? Can we design sustainable interactions and experiences, by doing less with design? Can we design everyday life, and social practices? But that’s something I will refer to another time…
What’s your energy consumption?
I am sure most of you (if not all) don’t have an answer to this question. I didn’t have either, till I visited Wattzon, I created a profile and started tracking the energy I consume due to my lifestyle. Expressed the data in Watt, the universal unit for power, the results were disappointing. I consume around 7000Watts, because of my choices in commuting, food, housing, flying, owning stuff and government. The last, refers to the social services we receive from government investments and the energy that is consumed and the carbon dioxide that is emitted. For the Netherlands, this number is 4,749Watts, which is very high if we acknowledge for instance that for my “total unsustainable” home-country, Greece, it’s only 1693Watt…I still have to figure out, why is it so high for the NL?
Another striking outcome is that, housing (including electricity, heating and gas) is only 12% of my total energy consumption. That’s the fraction (roughly), I aim to minimize by raising awareness for the domestic energy consumption…
Concluding, I think Wattzon is a wonderful tool to track and understand energy consumption but I still feel that something is missing…I’ll found out!
p.s If you have 30′ , watch the WattzOn at PopTech