Energy is (not) sexy
In this article appearing in three local newspapers, Glòria Serra Coch, architect and PhD student at EPFL’s Human Environment Relations in Urban Systems (HERUS), wonders how to make the energy turn around more attractive.
Energy is not sexy. Installing photovoltaic panels or an energy management system to optimize our homes’ energy consumption is not like buying the latest iPhone. We cannot show it off or lay it on a table and see how everyone around notices. It's not sexy. At most, energy consumption is a burden we need to take care of, a problem to solve.
Tesla managed to make electric vehicles sexy. A sleek design, crazy acceleration and purposeful marketing transformed an eco-hippy product into the coolest new thing. But how can that be done with energy management systems, which most people don't even know exist?
Perhaps, when marketing energy management systems, we should be focusing not on saving, reducing, becoming less, but rather on improving our comfort, being more independent, maximizing our investment, becoming more. That is, on projecting a positive image of moving forward, not restraining ourselves. Even if we manage to make energy management systems the next new thing and people not only know what they are – already quite an achievement – but also want one, the question remains: how will they get it?
People need a tailored product – not even a product, a turnkey service.
They cannot just go online, order it in one click and get it at home in a couple of days. Before installing a photovoltaic panel or an energy management system, people ought to study different products, talk to several professionals, see which subsidy scheme works, figure out how to integrate the technology into their house and calculate whether the investment is worth it. They need a tailored product – not even a product, a turnkey service.
Those technologies are therefore not prêt a porter but haute couture, a suit tailored to the specifics of each building, which can only be properly stitched together by a skilled artisan. Maybe the bright future will bring new bundled and compatible products, and homes already built with energy devices at the core of their architectonic design.
For now, however, we need to work with what we have: a huge existing built environment with millions of particularities. Thus, it comes down to us – architects, engineers, developers, building sector professionals – to adapt the suit to the body, the system to the home. We need to take an active role in coordinating the stakeholders and the products, guiding the user to the desired outcome and making innovative solutions the norm.
Glòria Serra Coch, architect and researcher at EPFL’s Laboratory on Human-Environment Relations in Urban Systems (HERUS)
- This article appeared in the October 2023 issue of Habitat magazine, which is published by three local dailies – La Côte (Vaud Canton), Le Nouvelliste (Valais Canton) and Arcinfo (Neuchâtel Canton) – under a joint initiative between EPFL and ESH Médias to showcase the R&D being carried out at EPFL on advanced construction techniques.