Changing energy cultures? Household energy use before and after a building energy efficiency retrofit
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Rau, Henrike, Moran, Paul, Manton, Richard, & Goggins, Jamie. (2020). Changing energy cultures? Household energy use before and after a building energy efficiency retrofit. Sustainable Cities and Society, 54, 101983. doi: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.scs.2019.101983
Government- and community-initiated energy retrofits of existing residential buildings abound across Europe. This paper argues that retrofitting initiatives need to extend their current emphasis on technical-material changes to include an equally strong focus on researching and potentially changing the energy-related expectations, aspirations and actual activities of those who inhabit and use these buildings. The concept of energy cultures serves as a useful heuristic to structure the analysis of household energy demand and internal environment. Covering three key elements of energy culture â 1) material conditions that relate directly to domestic energy use, 2) householdersâ attitudes, perceptions and norms concerning the use of energy and 3) observable everyday practices that use energy â , and their interactions, we examine data from 20 households in a social housing estate in Ireland collected before and after retrofitting. Overall, the results highlight the urgent need for an integrated approach to energy retrofitting that combines technology-aided changes in material conditions with a parallel re-shaping of householdersâ views and practices to achieve real and lasting reductions in energy use. The latter seems particularly pressing given both the persistence of many energy-intensive domestic activities and the possible emergence of rebound effects that have the potential to cancel out at least some of the savings made through retrofitting.
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