Builders need to do more to promote energy-efficient housing

by Search Gate staff. Published Sat 24 Apr 2010 11:53
EU calls for better communication

New EU-funded research from Finland has indicated that poor communication between producers of energy-efficient housing technologies and potential house-buyers is a major barrier to sustainable housing.

The report suggests that government bodies can encourage energy-efficiency innovations not only through regulations but also by improving information flow.

The EC Green Paper on Energy Efficiency has suggested that the housing sector accounts for 40 per cent of Europe's energy requirements.

However, the amount of energy conservation in this sector is rather small. This is partly due to energy prices, which have not always encouraged companies or consumers to actively search for the most energy-efficient solutions, and the use of voluntary regulative measures.

However, a core problem is the communication breakdown. The energy-efficiency knowledge of experts and residents remains within their respective domains causing a problem of 'sticky information'.

The research was conducted under the EU projects 'Changing Behaviour' and 'Create Acceptance'. It investigated the problem of 'sticky information' in a Finnish project, which aimed to promote low-energy housing that uses technologies such as thermal insulation, controlled air flows, low-energy windows and extraction of energy with heat pumps.

The project organised a competition for housing manufacturers to produce energy-efficient houses.

Ten entrants to the competition were awarded with a 'green label' designed to inspire purchaser confidence in the houses. However, sales of the houses have been disappointing.

The project involved potential buyers at various stages of the competition. For example, there were two buyers in the competition jury and a group of initial buyers was assembled. Low-energy concepts and houses were also presented at Housing Fairs.

The project did raise general awareness of energy conservation among potential buyers and addressed some user issues around the houses, such as comfort, convenience and indoor air quality.

However, the project failed to communicate some key issues. It did not convince purchasers that energy conservation was an urgent issue and purchasers were distrustful of the information provided by the housing manufacturers.

Many purchasers wanted modifications to the house designs, meaning that the buildings no longer met energy-efficient criteria. The project failed to address the diversity of users, the users' desire to participate and be well informed and their desire to customise their houses.

The study recommended greater use of participation methods to enhance communication. These could include consumer research, greater purchaser participation in the design through focus groups and co-design, and allowing purchasers to tailor blueprints with the use of 'user toolkits', i.e. open design platforms.

The methods would need to be adapted to the specific needs of users and producers and allow for customisation without compromising energy-efficiency. Regulatory instruments can also play a role, particularly if voluntary strategies do not improve energy-efficiency in coming decades.

Stricter building codes not only create a market for energy-efficiency but also solve some communication problems by reducing uncertainties for both companies and residents. In order to realise their full potential, regulations on new energy standards should be developed alongside communication strategies.

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Comments about Builders need to do more to promote energy-efficient housing

Builders should also promote energy savings tips within the home, like this one:
Dan, Oshawa around 3 years, 8 months ago

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