We all recognise the need to cut our energy consumption for two reasons: prices are spiralling and putting a strain on household finances; and one third of the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions come from our homes.
But cutting the amount of energy we use can be complicated. That’s why the RED unit at the Design Council has created a range of concepts to make reducing energy consumption, easier.
Can electricity meters become objects of desire? Can we make energy saving interesting? And can we design our way out of climate change? These were some of the questions asked by a group of designers and experts who spent six weeks in 2005 living in a draughty Victorian terrace in Lewisham, south London, testing out ideas that might make it easier for all of us to use less energy.
The project, called Future Currents, was run by the Design Council’s RED team, and was investigating how homeowners could reduce their domestic energy consumption, cutting both their bills and their CO2 emissions.
Energy prices have almost doubled in the last three years – and yet research from independent consumer advisory body the Energy Saving Trust, shows that UK homes waste more energy than anywhere else in Europe. The average UK home has more than 35 appliances and we use 70 per cent more electricity per home than we did in 1970.
The aim of the Design Council project was to create concepts and ideas that could open up discussion about the role that design could play in making energy saving not only user-friendly, but also desirable.
‘Wasting energy is not only expensive, it also contributes to greenhouse gas emissions - a major cause of climate change,’ says Jennie Winhall, a design strategist who worked on the project at the Design Council. ‘But changing our habits is difficult. Householders could reduce costs and greenhouse gas emissions by making their homes more efficient, generating their own energy, switching suppliers or simply switching off … but bills are confusing and energy use is invisible. Our project proposes new products, services and policies to help householders save energy and reduce CO2 emissions.’
About the project
The RED team’s energy project was designed to provoke responses, throwing out ideas to encourage the energy sector and householders to think in new ways. The project can be viewed online at the Future Currents website and everyone is invited to post their views or add their own ideas to help make energy saving aspirational rather than a chore.