Choosing low-energy lifestyles
While significant energy reductions can be achieved through the way we design our cities and the buildings within them, how we live our lives is also a key factor in reducing energy use.
Carbon and ecological footprinting analysis underpinning the Bioregional and World Wide Fund for Nature One Planet Living programme has shown than there are considerably higher CO2 emissions ‘embodied’ in our lifestyle choices than in the energy that we use directly. Cities and towns can play a supportive role in encouraging local residents and businesses to lead more energy efficient lifestyles.
'Lifestyle' emissions are generated particularly through transport (10 per cent), food (28 per cent), production of consumer goods and waste (17per cent) according UK Eco footprint 2003 prepared by BioRegional. Local engagement and education can help us to reduce the carbon content of these factors through changes in lifestyle choices. Most of these can be demonstrated to lead to a higher quality of life, with greater emissions savings than can ever result from considering energy alone.
At a regional or city scale sustainable procurement by the public sector can help reduce the carbon content of travel, food and waste supplied to schools, hospitals and offices across the city.
Low energy lifestyles can also be encouraged through a wide range of approaches outlined elsewhere on this website, including improving the public realm to promote walking and cycling, higher quality and frequency public transport and provision for community recycling and composting. The 'Manchester is my Planet' campaign is an example of a city-wide marketing strategy used to encourage more sustainable lifestyle choices. The campaign’s website keeps a log of the pledges made and the amount of CO2 saved by these actions by area to allow comparison.
Community-owned energy infrastructure systems can support significant shifts in residents’ energy use. If these systems are facilitated by multi-utility service companies (MUSCOs) they provide more than just energy services and make the operation much more efficient from the user perspective. The companies can provide meters and digital systems to support management of energy use and services concerned with lifestyle-related carbon emissions choices for residents. These could range from ICT services to food delivery to travel agency. Civic MUSCOs also provide an important opportunity to generate green collar jobs and new infrastructure.
Individual action can also reduce the amount of energy we use directly in our buildings. For example, Ashley Church of England School and Priestlands School show how people can significantly reduce energy use just by changing their behaviour.
A building’s operating costs are usually estimated at the design stage based on assumed occupant behaviour, control variables and the energy and water systems to be installed. However, the assumed control variable and occupant behaviour are rarely explained properly to the client or the future occupant. This usually results in higher than predicted energy and water use and costs. Occupiers of buildings need to understand how their building functions best. For example, for naturally ventilated office buildings windows may need to be open during the night and there needs to be sufficient night security (and perceptions of security) to allow this.
The building regulations now require developers to produce an operating manual both for technical and non-technical audiences to help occupants to operate buildings more effectively and to diagnose and rectify problems. The non-technical manual should be written assuming an occupant will wish to understand how the building operates, the purpose of the controls and features of the building and how to maximise their operation to change the internal conditions. Other information could also be provided to help occupants live more sustainable lives such as location maps for local services such as recycling facilities, transport nodes, shops and footpaths.
CABE and Urban Practitioners
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