Low Carbon Living in the Built Environment

Domestic energy use is responsible for almost two-thirds of the carbon footprint of developed societies, including heating, hot water, lighting and appliances and household consumption of food, goods and services.


What is the role of Design in reducing the energy consumption and footprints of housing and households?


The Design Group pioneered multidisciplinary research on designing for sustainability in household energy systems. A series of research programmes examined technical changes such as the adoption of low carbon products, vehicles and systems and behavioural changes in peoples’ lifestyles and consumption.

Multidisciplinary research projects are conducted in partnership with public and private sector organisations, including energy advice agencies, businesses, councils and trade associations.

Current and Recent Projects

Project Falcon Smart Grids: Exploring engagement with smart grid technologies and systems and new patterns of electricity demand and local generation (2012-15) (Stephen Potter, Matt Cook)

Achieving Adaptable Assets: Sustainable Integrated Infrastructure to deliver core utilities in an era of resource scarcity.  SHOCK (NOT) HORROR: mediating radical transformations in infrastructure provision (2011-13) (Emma Dewberry)

Milton Keynes Low Carbon Living (2009-13) (Stephen Potter, Sally Dibb, Gerard Hastings Robin Roy, Christine Thomas, Sally Caird, Derek Taylor)

Living in a Low-Carbon Society and The ‘rebound’ or ‘take-back’ effect in energy and consumption (2012) (Horace Herring)

Domestic heat pump field trial (2008-10) (Robin Roy, Sally Caird, Stephen Potter)

UK householders pioneering microgeneration heat (2007-8) (Robin Roy, Sally Caird, Stephen Potter)

Achieving Household Waste Prevention on New UK Housing Developments- DEFRA Waste and Resources Research Programme (2006-8) (Matthew Cook, Emma Dewberry)

People-centred Ecodesign project: Consumer adoption and use of low carbon products and systems (2005-7)  (Robin Roy, Sally Caird, Stephen Potter, Horace Herring)

Ecological footprints of UK households (2000-6) (Robin Roy, Sally Caird)

Tools to support low carbon living

EYE-OU personal carbon calculators (Robin Roy, Peter Harper, Lynn Short)
 ‘Quick’ calculator (in Sect. 3)  ‘Full’ calculator

SusTEACH toolkit for sustainability in higher education (Sally Caird, Ed Swithenby, Andy Lane) with Student and Lecturer carbon calculators

Software tools for zero carbon buildings (Robina Heatherington, Robin Laney, Stephen Peake)

Ecoquiz Postcards from the future (Sally Caird)


Sally Caird Claudia Eckert Stephen Peake
Matthew Cook Georgy Holden Stephen Potter
Emma Dewberry Peter Lloyd Robin Roy


Open University research publications: Low Carbon Living in the Built Environment