This post from 3P provides a frustrating example of the need to make sure people know how to use their green buildings:
Last summer I attended a sustainable building event where an interesting case study was presented. In April of 2001, a volunteer organization built a cluster of low-income housing units in a Detroit suburb for families in need. Each unit came equipped with energy saving appliances and the latest in green building technology. Floor to ceiling south facing windows flooded the units with warm, natural light and small ventilation windows allowed the rising heat of summer to escape. Each feature was specifically designed to help reduce monthly energy expenses and encourage more sustainable living practices.
After two years of backbreaking work, the job was completed and the first family moved in. The process, however, was never complete because the homes´ story was never told. When the project manger returned to the site after only one month he was shocked to see most of the innovations he´d worked so hard to integrate were not being utilized.
The windows were framed with black curtains, drawn 24 hours a day preventing any natural light to enter the home. The small, ventilation windows downstairs were stuffed with pillows creating a dark, damp, and claustrophobic environment for the tenants. Within a few months, unfortunately, the family couldn´t afford the cost of living and were subsequently evicted. Shortly thereafter a new family moved in, but like those before them, couldn´t afford the cost of living. Then a new family moved in, and another, and another.
This home had an incredible story that, unfortunately, was never told. If the tenants had known that covering the windows actually increased their heating bill…would they have done it? And if they understood that opening up the small, louvered windows in the summer would have lowered their air conditioning bill…would they have done it?
I'd love to see a study that scientifically evaluates a question like this -- carefully controlled and conducted to get at the answer. And I hope it would prove me wrong because I honestly don't think they would have done it. My guess is that these folks had a way they like to live, and the green features were out of step with their habits and comfort zones. It's like people who drive huge gas guzzling Ford Expeditions for safety reasons and because they like being high up so they can see better.
There comes a certain point where if we're serious about efficiency, then for the sake of both the economy and our environment, we just have to mandate certain types of clean, efficient technologies. We need to make it so that there are no longer inefficient, wasteful, and polluting buildings, appliances, energy sources and the like even available. What do you think?