How do people envision the next generation of buildings?
Keywords:Active Buildings, decarbonisation, stakeholder engagement
With several countries having declared a climate emergency and set decarbonisation targets, the built environment is expected to change radically. Several building standards have been developed to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from buildings, but they do not provide a clear pathway to a net zero future. The recently launched Active Building Code (ABCode) offers guidance on minimising the environmental impact of the next generation of buildings termed Active Buildings (ABs). This is achieved through their synergetic relationship with the grid. This paper presents our two-stage investigation into the stakeholder perceptions of ABs. In stage 1, we collected thoughts on the future of the built environment through a series of online focus group discussions with 30 industry experts. In stage 2, we quantified the ideas that arose from stage 1 through an online survey of 30 academics and researchers. Participants answered four questions, namely: (i) what is missing from existing regulations and standards; (ii) what is an AB; (iii) how should the performance of ABs be assessed; and (iv) what are the challenges to the popularisation of ABs. The data that was collected from the focus groups and the survey was analysed visually and statistically using logistic regression to identify the aspects stakeholders find important when envisioning the next generation of buildings. No significant differences were, in general, observed between the two groups, with industry and academia agreeing that whole-life carbon, energy demand, and energy flexibility should be used for the performance assessment of ABs – therefore aligning with the metrics suggested by the ABCode. Both groups interpreted ‘activeness’ as responsiveness, with industry experts highlighting the need to better define the relationship between buildings and the grid. They also regarded people’s mindset as the biggest challenge faced by ABs, due to the general tendency to make decisions based on capital cost. Academics and researchers also worried about the cost of technologies involved, which is however expected to drop over time. Results should be used to inform regulations and standards to make sure these are comprehended by all stakeholders and ultimately drive down carbon on all building projects.
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