Man Vs. Technology (In Energy Efficient Buildings)

In the future, when you live and/or work in a fully energy efficient building, the smart meter will not only control your building’s energy use but it will also have a scary robotic voice. That way, every time you go to manually override the thermostat controls, it will say, “What are you doing, Dave?” (Did I mention that everyone in the future is named Dave?)

Unfortunately, we’re not in the future yet, and one of the things that we’re learning about trying to use energy efficient goods and services to improve building performance is that people are a big problem!

This recent British study is only the latest example. There are plenty of basic issues like opening windows or (my personal favorite) continuing to use the old fridge after you buy the new, energy efficient one that no amount of technology can stop (except for superintelligent window-closing robots, perhaps).

So what does this mean for our Metropolitan Business Plan work of looking at how to increase sales of energy efficient goods and services to the world? Well, it means to me that all the computer modeling and R&D in the world can’t tell you how your product is going to affect energy efficiency unless you test it in a real environment. And that’s one of the reasons why we’re thinking seriously that one of the most valuable things we can do to catalyze our region’s energy efficiency industry is to create a “demonstration neighborhood” for those products and services to be used in.

The idea is relatively straightforward: you pick a specific geographic area – a block, several blocks, a neighborhood – and install the best of all of our region’s energy efficiency goods and services in the buildings. It would be a “living laboratory,” not only testing the initial installation of these products and services but also serving as a test bed for refinement and upgrade as new products and processes develop. You also have the added branding benefit if you do it well: this super-efficient demonstration neighborhood would be the focus of significant marketing (newspapers, magazines, pursuit of national/international awards, visits from technical experts and potential customers from around the world) and you would grow our region’s reputation as the epicenter of best practices in energy efficient products and services. People would not only want to buy those goods and services that went into creating the demonstration neighborhood but also the expertise of integrating these products and services to maximum impact.

It’s still only one of several ideas that we’re considering writing the business plan around, but it’s certainly intriguing!

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