Project Information

Background: Sustainable Society and National Importance

This project will develop a collective ‘Learning Energy System’ involving people, objects, data and machines. Central to this is a digital system designed to align human needs and comfort with building energy systems, with the aim of to reducing overall energy demand. This project differs from many energy reduction projects. The building user; as a sensor of conditions; as a driver of energy demand; as an individual; and as a collective, is at the heart of the ‘Learning Energy System’. Dynamic interactions between people and technology will be set up using innovative mobile applications.

Beyond our homes, schools are the buildings that all society, primarily young people, engages with. The potential for embedding principles of low energy behaviour through the use of school buildings is present across all school aged children, but they are rarely involved in decisions on how energy is used. Carbonbuzz (2012) demonstrates that schools are often using approximately twice the energy that was anticipated at the design stage. A large proportion of this energy is ‘un- regulated’ and therefore unaccounted for in most energy performance models. Very few school buildings give direct control of energy to building users, and therefore little responsibility is taken if energy is wasted. Digital control systems or Building Management Systems (BMS) designed to control energy are not capable of responding to the unpredictable way that people use buildings and this may be an important contributory factor to high energy demand. Understanding the relationships people have with energy in buildings and patterns of use, will ultimately be used to create a learning system designed to reduce energy demand. Responsibility for energy use will be shared by building users, offering potential for transformative approaches to energy consumption in schools.

Schools are particularly sensitive to increases in energy, as budgets are fixed and increased running costs may affect resource provision in teaching and educational activities. Nationally all public sector is affected by the CRC (Carbon Reduction Commitment) and the newly announced carbon tax has set severe financial penalties on energy demand. This is set against current budget pressures. UK policy on carbon reduction sets targets that RIBA (2012) consider difficult to achieve with current legislation at odds with policy. Unlike most energy reduction projects this work aims to address energy reduction from an intuitive and responsive perspective rather than the dominant penalty based system. By giving individuals a ‘voice’ in how limited resources are used it is envisaged that attitudes and behaviour towards energy will be changed in the age group with the biggest potential for impact across society into the future.