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By Dr Charles Musselwhite, Director of the Centre for Innovative Ageing

Do people accept new technology, can they work and live around these things, does it change their behaviour? We can find answers to these questions from real people in real time on the Active Building Centre projects

We are experiencing unprecedented times with the current climate emergency. One small solution on its own isn’t going to solve the problem.

We have to experiment, we have to be clever, and we have to take risks.

Society is quite risk adverse when it comes to building things. That’s why we need the Active Building Centre to test some cool, new innovative solutions that can make our lives more energy efficient.

Sharing energy

We need to think about creating a community and not just leaving Active Buildings once they are built.

We are so not used to sharing these days. Will we see change in attitudes and perceptions and a shift in social acceptance of such buildings? Will there be arguments in communities sharing energy, for example?

With new tech, people may like some bits but not others and we need to be pushing boundaries and be risky with technology.

At the Active Building Centre we can investigate and test this.

Inter-generational energy

Quite often when you do projects using innovative tech and solutions, older people (50+) are left out of the picture. It tends to be focused on the young people which isn’t truly sustainable at all. The traditional view of OAPs is no longer as it once was.

Can Active Buildings and Active Homes work for over 50’s?

We need older people to be involved in the climate emergency and speak for their generation.

Well-being in Active Buildings

We need to test an occupant’s well-being in an Active Building or Active Home.

Well-being is such a fluid term and it changes on a day to day basis. People’s well-being goes up and down, for example during winter and summer, and on a day to day basis in relation to daily practices.

Types of technology can have a positive or negative affect on health and well-being. We currently don’t have a huge evidence base of this sort of research.

Future co-development with older people on new buildings is vital too. For example, designing interfaces, to make sure they effect behaviour change with focus on user insight.

Active Buildings societal impact

Actual real build research should have a huge societal impact.

The Active Building Centre allows developers to identify things to put into a home that at the moment looks too risky to add to mainstream.

We can send powerful messages which can be mimicked going forwards.

Electric vehicles and Active Buildings

We live in a hyper mobile society. Connected to friends family services and shops, throughout our life we have connected to different spaces.  At the moment how we do that is damaging the environment.

Electric cars plug that gap. They connect a hyper mobile society and reduce CO2.

With the Active Building Centre it will be good to test how the car interacts with the home as real life integrates home and mobility.

Active Buildings evidence

I am delighted that Swansea University’s Centre for Innovative Ageing is part of this multidisciplinary, multisectoral project.

We can develop the concept of homes for life and work towards keeping older people independent at home, all within the context of modified energy use and practices in Active Buildings.

Overall the Active Building Centre will make significant difference to developing low and zero carbon buildings at a time of immense need with regards to climate change.

The multidisciplinary nature of our approach means we mix engineering, construction and social science.

We can understand the user insight and behaviour. What is acceptable to the public and what isn’t. And how do the technologies in the homes and commercial buildings change behaviours.

The multi-sector approach means real buildings and real homes can be user tested.

Evidence and understanding from real homes and real people within them can shape future developments of buildings throughout Wales, UK and the wider world.


Does your building classify as an Active Building?

Do you require support to make an investment case for renewable and storage technologies? Do you have a construction and development team in place looking for additional support?

If so, please contact us to discuss working with the Active Building Centre on your potential Active Building Project.

Published August 2019