The social construction of heating and cooling practices

Tipo de Publicação: Comunicação

Fonseca, Susana (2013). “The social construction of heating and cooling practices”. In EFS – Energy for Sustainability – Sustainable Cities: Designing for the People and the Planet. Coimbra, 8 a 10 de Setembro, Itecons – Universidade de Coimbra.

For decades energy has been considered a central element of political strategies, public speeches, a driver for innovation and technology development (not only by trying to find more sustainable sources of energy, but also by trying to increase efficiency of its use). This conference aims at discussing how it is possible to design cities for people and for the planet, combining the needs and expectations of human beings with the constraints posed by
the need to make every action sustainable in the short and in the long run. With the present short paper our aim is to highlight how important the design moment is to balance sustainability and human needs.

For over four decades human behaviour or as we prefer in our research field, social practices, have been understood as a “non-technical” barrier to a more energy efficient society. A set of tools have been thought of, included in public policies and implemented in a concerted effort to help agents to follow the right path and to assume practices that are widely considered, among political and technical arenas, as rational. Although such an approach has had some difficulties in achieving the expected results, justifications for the failure are usually associated with the mix of measures taken and not as a proof that something is wrong with the initial approach.

Using data from in depth interviews to families and energy experts, we try to highlight how building regulations, technology developments and the generalization of access to artificial indoor temperatures may result in increased energy consumption and the disappearance of traditional practices, by creating new needs and a new concept of “normal temperature”.