Design Improvements from users’ experiences of low and zero carbon technologies

Roy, Robin and Caird, Sally (2008). Design Improvements from users’ experiences of low and zero carbon technologies. International Journal of Performability Engineering, 4(4) pp. 357–370.



The development and rapid consumer adoption of low and zero carbon (LZC) technologies are key elements of UK and EU carbon reduction strategies to meet the challenge of climate change. Many LZC technologies are available, ranging from established energy efficiency products such as home insulation and energy-efficient lighting to more innovative renewable energy technologies, including solar thermal systems, micro-wind turbines, solar photovoltaics and biomass stoves. This paper examines key influences on consumer adoption – and non-adoption – of energy efficiency products and renewable energy systems based on the findings of a UK Open University project, which conducted some 111 in-depth telephone interviews plus an on-line survey with nearly 400 responses. The results show that it is important to research consumer requirements and use behaviours when developing ‘green’ technologies. Consumer adoption of LZC products and systems has been relatively slow and, even when installed, due to behavioural effects, they have not always reduced carbon emissions as much as expected.
The results of this study of UK consumers’ experiences shows that improved designs are required to address barriers to LZC adoption and problems in use, including functionality, ergonomics, interconnectedness with other systems and symbolic value, as well as price and payback. Offering challenges for designers, engineers and managers, the paper identifies user-centred improvements to promote more rapid adoption and effective use of LZC technologies.

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