Designing efficient homes is one part of the sustainability puzzle, but just how occupants use these homes could be even more important.
Recent research found that more than 50 per cent of potential energy savings from energy-efficient homes could be lost if users didn’t know how to operate them effectively.
Now Josh Byrne’s Josh’s House project is getting in on the research action, embarking on a two-year “Living Labs” experiment with Curtin University’s Sustainability Policy Institute, backed by the CRC for Low Carbon Living, to investigate how knowledge and behaviour can influence a home’s operational performance.
The research project will look at 10 suburban homes around Fremantle, WA, which are already making efforts to reduce environmental impact, implementing features like solar panels, rainwater tanks, low-energy lighting and efficient design. The homes are a mix of old and new, with both high-performance homes and more conventional homes that meet the six-star NatHERS requirements for new homes.
By providing real-time feedback on energy and water use, and tips on improving, the research will attempt to answer the questions: “If provided with the right information and guidance, will these householders go even further to reduce their energy and water consumption and lower their carbon footprint? Is behaviour the number one factor in living more sustainably? And can simple lifestyle changes reduce bills, make homes more comfortable and save money?”
“These days our homes are full of energy efficient appliances, water saving fixtures and solar power is common place, so many people think they’re already doing their bit,” Mr Byrne said.
“On top of that, bills are received so infrequently that people lose the connection between their actions and patterns of consumption. Here, we’re testing the impact of real-time data feedback, as well as other methods to help people go further if that’s what they want to do. It’s a fascinating real-life study spanning design, technology and human behaviour and attitudes, and there’s a lot that we can all learn from it.”
The results will be shared gradually through a four-part video series from Josh’s House, with the first released today.