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Building SMART homes and playing the climate game

Building SMART homes will be essential to meet the UK 2050 Net Zero Target.

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Building SMART homes and playing the climate game

Building SMART homes will be essential to meet the UK 2050 Net Zero Target.

As countries at COP28 grapple with how to meet global net zero targets, Britain is also working out how it will meet its own 2050 Net Zero Target. One vital part of any UK climate strategy must be building design. There are 29 million homes in Britain which consume 14 percent of the UK’s energy consumption. Building new energy-efficient homes and retrofitting existing ones is therefore essential for meeting the UK 2050 Net Zero Target.

Dr Ghasson Shabha, Senior Lecturer in Facilities Management at Birmingham City University (BCU), and Paul Laycock, Deputy Head of College at Built Environment, have carried out ‘A Qualitative Assessment of the Impact of Smart Homes on the UK 2050 Net Zero Carbon Emission Target’.

An image of a house exploring different ways you can get a modern smart home

In order to meet the target Shabha believes it is essential to retrofit existing homes and to build new ones with Smart technology built in.

“An average three-bedroom house produces five tonnes of carbon a year and is almost completely reliant on fossil fuels. When you consider that the British population will grow by five million in the next 20 years it makes it essential that both existing homes and new ones are environmentally friendly.”

New strategy for Smart home building

When it comes to building new homes, Smart technology can easily be incorporated such as meters and sensors to record, monitor and optimise water, heat, and energy. Smart technologies like water and electricity meters are already widely available, but as some firms charge for them, the uptake has been limited. Other technologies such as Smart plug-ins, which can control lighting, and Smart built-in water heaters, which use 15W instead of 600W to boil water, are also available but currently are not being fitted as standard into new homes.

“We need a government-led strategy to develop Smart homes which incorporates education, training and address issues like compatibility, connectivity, interoperability and standardization” of devices and wireless platform said Shabha. “This will really help the widespread adoption of smart homes and make the technologies easier to use and affordable for the wider homeowners. BCU research has shown that half of all homeowners are very supportive of Smart technology but the elderly in particular need support to make the transition, issues like safety and security being a priority for them.”

A novel board game

If you’ve ever wanted to play the climate game, then why not try CLIMANIA? A novel way for young people and communities to learn about climate politics, CLIMANIA was designed by Claudia Carter, Professor of Environmental Governance and Planning at Birmingham City University. An engagement, educational and discussion tool aimed at informing the public of the role of the built environment in the climate emergency, the game specifically focuses on urban planning and retrofit.

With so much at stake at the COP28 climate talks in the United Arab Emirates, CLIMANIA can really help young people to understand the difficult decisions needed in climate diplomacy.

Carter said “The Climate Action Game project was a co-design and research project concepted in light of COP26. We worked with thirteen young people aged 14-18 from Balsall Health, Birmingham, in a co-design process to develop this game. The project aimed to stimulate awareness and knowledge amongst young people in a fun and engaging way to realise the impact of the built environment on climate change.”

BCU runs The Centre For Future Homes, a research group consisting of Birmingham City University academics, focused on helping organisations to measure and improve their building outputs.

The free to print-and-play board game files for CLIMANIA can be downloaded on their website.

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