A case study from the Netherlands describes an inclusive process for designing energy-efficient home renovations. A neighbourhood of 280 apartments is the subject of the study. With a mix of homeowners, renters and social housing tenants, it was essential to involve residents in the renovation process.
Involving residents in major renovations is essential for bringing together the technical and social aspects of design.
The principles of civic and energy justice underpinned the approach to the project. Given that the resulting designs will largely be the same for every home, they need to be inclusive and considerate of ongoing energy costs for everyone. That means an inclusive design process is required.
Participatory action research
Expert stakeholders and six residents were interviewed and 50 residents were observed and interviewed during a tour of the demonstration apartment. Mutual learning was a key part of the iterative process involving prototypes.
Attention was paid to diversity, accessibility of research materials and interview materials were both verbal and visual. Technical design features were part of the results, but values emerged from the process. These values were health, sustainability, property value, cost of living and comfort.
The paper goes into more detail on the findings and the process. As part of the process, researchers developed a renovation guide to help residents understand what the proposed changes mean for them. They acknowledged time constraints which meant residents did not have time to experience the apartment. Rather, they only had time to view it.
Recommendations for improving the process include:
- Location. Any sessions should be in the neighbourhood and in an accessible venue.
- Time. Different meeting and interview times will suit different people.
- Invitations. The guide acts as an invitation but might not work for everyone.
- Language. Dutch is a second language for some people so a session in English might be necessary.
- Other options. Apart from meetings, phone and email should be available. Not everyone feels comfortable in a group.
The lessons from the paper could be applied in housing situations such as social housing and co-housing. It also adds to the literature on inclusive design and co-design, and participatory action research.
The title of the article is, Values arising from participatory inclusive design in a complex process. There are diagrams to illustrate the complexity of designing an entire home and it’s technical systems, indoor climate, the lives and values of residents, and connection to systems and services.
From the abstract
This paper addresses inclusive design in a situation of complexity and how to improve it. The focus is on the inclusive design of a complex process and its tools, which is increasingly an issue in systemic design challenges. The current situation of climate change means we need to work on sustainability and inclusion at the same time.
The paper presents a case study of an energetic renovation process and the stakeholders’ activities and views in it. In a research-through-design process, the paper traces the possibilities to intervene in the process with communication tools to increase inclusivity of both process and outcomes.
Energy efficiency and universal design
Are energy efficiency and universal design incompatible? Potentially. Energy efficiency has an engineering approach and universal design has a sociological approach. This is what makes them incompatible according to researchers in Belgium. Energy efficiency is a measurable product whereas universal design is a process. So how can they both be addressed in home renovations? This was the topic of a conference paper in 2016.
Thinking has moved on and we now talk about sustainability from both perspectives and the importance of having both. However, this paper brings the concepts into the same conversation and highlights areas of potential conflict. The paper has some interesting and explanatory graphs and comparisons that are worth a look especially for academics and theorists.
The title of the paper is, Energy Efficiency and Universal Design in Home Renovations – A Comparative Review