A sustainable lifestyle requires novel structures that can easily be transferred into daily life
At Aalto University, researchers from different fields are seeking methods for energy-efficient and sustainable living and accommodation.
All new houses to be zero-energy buildings by 2020
Yrsa Cronhjort, who is a researcher in timber construction, and Kai Siren, professor of energy technology, are two of the supporting forces behind the student-built Luukku zero-energy house, made of wood.
The accolades won by Luukku in the Solar Decathlon Europe 2010 contest proved that with its material and system choices, Finland can compete with countries that have more access to solar power.
- We are investigating the possibilities for using wood in renovations, and the effects of timber construction on the environmental efficiency of renovations and repairs, Cronhjort explains.
Buildings and construction account for approximately 40% of Finland’s total energy consumption.
- We are looking at renovations as a part of suburban planning and restoration. Our research also covers holiday homes, and the energy efficiency and carbon footprint of residential areas.
- The best methods for improving energy efficiency of buildings lie in advanced heating, plumbing and ventilation systems, says professor Siren.
- One of the biggest challenges for the next few years is that regulations concerning the energy consumption of buildings will change again in Finland, as of the beginning of 2012. From then on, different forms of energy will have different weightings in consumption calculations. Another challenge is the new European Energy Performance of Buildings Directive. It demands that from 2020 onwards all the houses that are built in Europe should be zero-energy houses, which produce renewable energy using in-built devices, such as solar power generators.
A sustainable lifestyle must be easy and attractive
The new energy efficiency legislation is not enough by itself to drive sustainable development. For people to adhere to sustainable lifestyles, environmentally friendly choices must be easy to make.
- Traditionally, we have promoted sustainable lifestyles by educating individuals. Providing information and influencing attitudes is not enough, however. Despite their good intentions, consumers find it difficult to make ecological choices in their everyday lives, says post-doctoral researcher Sanna Ahonen from the Sustainable Urban Structures project. In her research, she is analysing successful sustainable development applications.
- The latest forays into research on consumer behaviour have emphasised the fact that individual lifestyles are not regulated purely by motives and purposeful actions. Even though in theory we have free choice in our behaviour, traditional customs are supported by cultural and social structures.
- A good initiative to support sustainable lifestyles will not only provide knowledge and attitude-related education, but also make sustainable alternatives easy and attractive for consumers, Ahonen explains.
Aalto University conducts research on sustainable lifestyles in various units and projects:
Wood Architecture (Department of Architecture)
Research Group for Heating, Plumbing and Air-Conditioning (Department of Energy Technology)
Sustainable Urban Structures (YTK)
Creative Sustainability (cross-disciplinary degree programme within Aalto University)
Future Home Institute