British Design Council Team launches home energy intensity reduction campaign

The British Design Council’s RED team project, called Future Currents, has recently completed its work to identify ways to save energy in the home. Their Future Currents website asks for feedback from Brits and gives both practical and policy suggestions. Energy use in the home in Britain is up by a staggering 70 percent just from the 1970s and Britain’s contribution to greenhouse gas emissions is spiralling upwards accordingly. Several of their suggestions look similar to POST CARBON INSTITUTE’S recommendations on re-localization. Visit the website at to make your opinions heard.

We reproduce an article about the RED TEAM here under fair use:

Do you know how much energy your house uses? Do you know what it costs you and how you could cut your bills? Do you even read your bills?

Most people answer ‘no’ to those questions. And it’s easy to see why. Let’s face it, when it’s not being mysterious, domestic energy is a bit of a snooze and with many of us paying obediently by Direct Debit, that’s just the way the utility companies like it. But with energy use rising fast and homes generating a third of the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions, things need to change.
The Design Council’s RED team has been looking into how design can help to make that change happen. A team of designers and policymakers has lived in a Lewisham flat to get a look at the subject from the householder’s point of view, a process aided by working with 16 London householders.

The result is a string of concepts aimed at getting householders more interested in the energy they’re using and putting them in control of the process. The ideas have now been launched online (use the link on the right to access them) in an effort to spark debate on energy use and what designers can do to turn it into an issue that doesn’t exit our minds the moment we close the meter cupboard or file a bill.

The ideas include new ways to make it easier for people to monitor their energy use, such as an energy statement tracking their energy use and comparing it to the national average, and a ‘home dashboard’ making it clear which appliances use most energy and revealing the cost of leaving them on ‘stand-by’.

Incentives for saving energy are also proposed. They include a Power Pension which turns credits for energy-saving home improvements into post-retirement cuts on bills, and an ‘energy rating’ for houses similar to that used for domestic appliances. And there are suggested schemes for getting householders together to cut the cost of energy saving measures, install wind turbines and trade energy. The project has used these ideas as the springboard for policy recommendations, with visitors to the website invited to vote for the ones they think are the best.

The project comes against a background of spiralling energy use – and so a growing contribution to global warming – by the UK. Total energy use has gone up by a third in 30 years and today we use 70 per cent more electricity per home than we did in 1970. In the 1920s, the RED team’s temporary home, a Victorian terrace, would have been wired for half a dozen central ceiling lights and a couple of sockets, while the average house now has 35 appliances, with multiple lights in every room.

The level of energy ‘leakage’ makes matters worse, explains project manager Nick Morton: ‘Tests at the flat showed that its single-glazed windows, uninsulated loft and redundant chimneys meant air in its rooms changed a staggering 40 times per hour. Had the air been water, the flat would have sunk in two minutes.’

Much energy policy is currently focused on helping to provide energy to people on low incomes. But almost all the 150million tonnes of carbon dioxide going into the atmosphere from houses is coming from households which could easily pay to take action on energy use. That’s why the project’s ideas are targeted at people in the ‘able-to-pay’ sector.

‘Although the energy rating of fridges and the like is having an effect, we’re buying bigger fridges than we used to, so the positive impact of the rating is reduced,’ says Morton. ‘We’re trying to show that the key to reversing the rise in energy use is people’s behaviour. As consumers, we’ve got used to a system where we play a passive role, so our work starts by making energy tangible and visible, and tries to find ways to make people feel more motivated to take control of it. ’

The website part of RED – Future Currents, presents results so far. The ten week project has developed concepts for ways to help owner occupiers reduce their domestic energy consumption and C02 emissions.

To look at energy saving from a homeowner’s point of view. Our team of designers and policy makers lived in a draughty Victorian terrace in Lewisham. We worked with 12 householders across London to get insight and generate ideas, backed up with input from leading energy experts.

The proposals and policy recommendations are work in progress. We want them to provoke thought and open up discussion on the role a design-led approach could play in making energy saving desirable and user-friendly.

Visit the website at to make your opinions heard.

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