The Centre for Studies on Sustainable Development: a short presentation
The Centre is a unit research of the Environment Management and Land Planning Institute of the Université Libre de Bruxelles.
The Centre carries out multidisciplinary research with respect to a series of aspects in relation to environmental policies and strategies within the general frame of sustainable development. The Centre is concerned with research on the elaboration and evaluation of policies and instruments, as well as with the socio-economic, technical or philosophical context of sustainable development.

The CEDD is composed of a multidisciplinary research team, specialised in issues related to sustainability, and is backed by a series of exterior scientific collaborators. Depending on the research projects, partnerships are established within the Institute or within the University, as well as with other universities or organisations in Belgium and Europe.
The know-how is developed from :
• data-bank on indicator systems in the environmental sector (Belgian and international) data-collection on the implementation of sustainable development policies
• collection of case-studies on methodologies concerning sustainable consumption
• opinion polls in relation to environmental issues and sustainable development

The non-conference on Designing Household Energy Practices happens at the end of the ISEU project


ISEU : Integration of Standards, Ecodesign and Users in energy-using products

ISEU is a four years research project (2007-2011), funded by the Belgian Science Policy and led by a multidisciplinary network, compounded of the CEDD (Centre for Studies on Sustainable Development-ULB), the CRIOC-OIVO (Centre of Research and Information to Consumer Organisations) and the ICEDD (Institute of Advice and Studies on Sustainable Development). This sociotechnical study is about the co-construction of energy-using objects and users’ practices.

For a new culture of energy brought forth through objects
The ISEU project aims at getting a better understanding of how household energy-using products (EuPs) are designed and used. We explore the hypothesis that the necessary change of culture of energy could be brought by objects and, in particular, through the object/user interfaces, rather than by means of information. Classic approaches separate energy efficiency (of objects) and sufficiency (of behaviours), despite the fact that behaviours and objects are mutually shaped. We prefer to consider that energy consumption is distributed between objects and users.
There are different ways that objects could embody a new culture of energy.
Firstly, EuPs incorporate cultural elements. Each energy-using object embodies a series of constraints pertaining to different categories of requirements: technology, economy, ergonomics, social and cultural aspects, health and safety, ecology, ethics,… These constraints are mutually negotiated for eventually constituting an appliance, which then can be seen as a result of the balance of power and interests that have negotiated. It is for this reason that an EuP embodies political and cultural values. For instance, the problem of energy consumption by households is today mainly addressed through the improving of energy efficiency of appliances.
Secondly, the action can be more or less delegated to the machines, for instance in scripting some practices into the objects. It has an important consequence for our project since it entails that behaviours are more or less shaped by appliances, and that objects are moralising devices. Moralising means here that mores (i.e. the way people behave) are changed through objects. Material agencies induce certain mores and prevent others.
We are developing case studies about the following objects: regulation of heating, computers, washing machines, lighting (domestic), smart metering. Our case studies show that there is a huge diversity of practices and possible strategies: each EuP has its own characteristics, and own ecodesign requirements. It entails that standards are often far from real situations. The diversity of users is generally not taken into account: the variability in the objects is not in congruence with the variability of uses. The different exhibited examples show that when one considers energy efficiency without uses and users, one can be led towards solutions that are not optimum for saving energy.
The practices related to energy consumption are going to change. The mutation of the ‘culture of energy’ has to be accompanied in order to prevent social disruption and to limit environmental impacts. The transition towards sustainable energy culture will require understanding household practices in order to adapt them to the new context. In this perspective, efficiency and sufficiency approaches should not be seen as conflicting but as complementary.

Visit ISEU on the Belgian Science Policy site