'Social Engineering': Green Sky Thinking 2015

By Henry Pelly

15 May 2015

Once again this year, Max Fordham hosted an event as part of the Green Sky Thinking programme.

Titled ‘Social Engineering – Why People Won’t Do What Designers Want Them to Do’, it drew a large audience at the Art Workers’ Guild in London. I was fortunate enough to present at the event with three experts in the field of sociology and design – Simon Blyth, Elizabeth Shove and Dan Lockton.

Our original title included a question mark after ‘Social Engineering’ that somehow got lost at the printers. Attendees expecting an examination of the dystopian manipulation of human behaviour would have been disappointed. At its heart lies a question for designers – in order to reduce energy demand, do we design to influence building users to act a certain way, or do we learn how people act and design to accommodate that behaviour? If we are to truly make buildings that work, what approach will give us the best result?

Listening to the presenters on the night, it’s clear that there is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ method to get people to use less energy. One of the lessons, in fact, is that people don’t use energy at all! They boil a cup of tea. Or take a shower. Or switch on the lights. Or turn up the heating. Often they are not even cognisant of their behaviour in terms of energy consumption. How do we reduce that consumption if there is no recognition of it taking place?

The video below is a heavily abridged version of proceedings. There will be more videos of the evening to follow in the coming weeks. I encourage you to take a look and make up your own mind. If you have any questions or comments please get in touch with me at h.pelly@maxfordham.com



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