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Link Round-Up: Energy Efficiency Curbs Climate Change, Smart Land Use = More Jobs, How To Encourage Home Energy Efficiency, and Designers Facilitating Social Change
Amanda Reed, 6 Sep 10

Let's start out this link round-up with a hopeful proposition: "America can become vastly more efficient, and we can do it thanks to our track record of innovation." That's what Frances Beinecke, at the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), writes in her recent post about David Goldstein's new book on efficiency...

  1. New Book Says Potential for Efficiency Is Much Larger than Previously Thought:

    In yesterday’s New York Times, NRDC’s David Goldstein said that America could reduce our projected energy use by more than 80 percent in the next 40 years.

    That may sound like a bold claim, but in his new book, Invisible Energy: Strategies to Rescue the Economy and Save the Planet, David explains exactly why these enormous gains in energy efficiency are possible.


    In his new book, David takes what we know about innovation curves in other technologies and applies it to the realm of efficiency. He concludes that we could reduce our energy use by 30 percent in 2020 and by 88 percent in 2050.

    Considering that every kilowatt of energy we save is a kilowatt we don’t have to produce at a coal-fired, natural gas, or nuclear power plant, David’s estimates confirm that efficiency is our most potent weapon in the fight to curb climate change.

Kaid Benfield, also at the NRDC, gathers together a series of studies and reports that show how investing in public transit, revitalizing and restoring neighborhoods, and building green buildings all create jobs...

  1. Job Creation through Smart Land Use & Transportation:
    The nation’s workforce has an important stake in smart, environmentally sound development and transportation. At a time when unemployment has reached disturbing levels, public policy should take advantage of the job-creation benefits of a robust agenda for smart, sustainable communities. I won’t pretend to know every aspect, but let’s look at three categories:

    Public transit
    People take for granted that “shovel-ready” highway projects create jobs. But investment in public transportation may be even more effective in generating employment. Yesterday, just in time for Labor Day, the Transportation Equity Network released a report showing that US metro regions that give a high priority to transit “generate more jobs per dollar spent on transportation” than do regions that emphasize highways...

Shifting back to energy efficiency...the folks over at The Design Council, in coordination with the UK-based Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC), have released a PDF proposal that looks at "how to encourage the adoption of home insulation and other low-carbon home modifications."

  1. How Can We Help People Make Their Homes More Energy Efficient?:
    A joint proposal How can we help people make their homes more energy efficient? shows how user-centred design research has helped DECC understand how consumers feel about installing cavity wall insulation or lagging their loft and it shows that people feel disengaged with the overarching environmental issues.

    If the Warm Homes, Greener Homes strategy's ambition of completing loft and cavity wall insulation for every home by 2015 and installing up to 7 million eco-upgrades beyond insulation by 2020, is to be achieved, DECC know it needs to take advantage of any currently unmet opportunities to improve the uptake of energy efficiency measures. Design Council user-centred research mapped the complexity of the customer journey and identified a number of strategic opportunities for encouraging the uptake of energy efficiency measures.

Cameron Tonkinwise reviews a new exhibition at the Abrons Art Center in the Lower East Side of New York City, which explores the role of designers in facilitating social change.

  1. "Politics Please, We're Social Designers":
    What happens if design-based social innovation is not just a way of avoiding conventional, explicit politics, but a way of undermining politics altogether?

    The exhibition is not a curation of findings at the end of the project, but a research tool in the middle of a project. It is one of a number of initiatives that are part of the Amplifying Creative Communities project to find examples of people who have taken it upon themselves to innovate new ways of resourcing their everyday lives, normally involving some sort of sharing. The assumption is that people around the world are giving up waiting for government or business to develop more sustainable (both ecologically and socially) ways of living and working, and so are starting to do it for themselves. Having found these sorts of innovations, the project is then exploring how design can enhance their effectiveness, and how design can help others take up similar innovations.

    The Amplifying Creative Communities project is therefore about the sustainability of sustainability. It is about making the sort of innovations toward more sustainable societies that are arising in neighborhoods all over at the moment more sustainable, that is, less fragile and more permanent, less sporadic and more pervasive.

    Compared to a lot of 'social design' currently being done, DESIS is interesting because of the emphasis it places on design as redesign...

Related stories in the Worldchanging archives:

  • Grandeur of Delusions: Thoughts on the Public Perceptions of Energy Consumption and Savings Study | Roger Valdez, 19 Aug 10
    A recent study—Public perceptions of energy consumption and savings—conducted by researchers at Columbia University, Ohio State University and Carnegie Mellon University found two broad categories of energy saving actions people could take, curtailment actions and efficiency actions. Curtailment actions—turning the heat off or down—were seen as saving the most energy, while efficiency actions—installing insulation or a new boiler—were seen as saving less energy. It’s actually the other way around.

    The problem is that the actions people intuitively perceived as having the biggest value actually had the smallest savings. Making retrofits, for example, saves far more energy than turning down the heat a few degrees. This confusion throws a serious kink into efforts to make policy changes that promote energy efficiencies—and might speak to the need for more gradual mandates to promote efficiencies in the residential sector.

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