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Designing for sustainable growth

Research by The Open University's Design Group is developing a range of low-energy, low-carbon systems for domestic and transport use.

Key aspects of this research

  • Contributed to Government’s low carbon energy policies
  • Influenced the sustainability practices of public and private sector organisations
  • Informed user-centred design of domestic heating systems
  • Led to innovative transport designs for smarter cities

It has examined consumer adoption and use of low carbon technologies, including photovoltaic, solar thermal, heat pump and biomass heating systems. The need for sustainable buildings and transport systems is widely acknowledged. As the effects of climate change are felt, the need to design more innovative solutions is intensifying.The Open University’s Design Group is influencing the development of sustainable energy systems through a range of activities. 

It has also examined the effect of control design and heating behaviours on heat pump efficiency e.g. poor understanding of controls, and ‘comfort-taking’.

Design and policy changes

And it has identified design and policy changes that could improve take-up and efficient use of these low carbon products and systems e.g. more user-centred controls and independent information on the suitability, performance and use of equipment.

Its 10-year research programme on low carbon domestic energy systems, led by Professor Robin Roy and Dr Sally Caird included a partnership with the Energy Saving Trust and effective public and private collaborations.

It also led to an invitation to provide evidence to the 2007 Parliamentary Committee Enquiry on Climate Change and informed the Government’s 2013 The Future of Heating policy document.

Innovation in Milton Keynes

Electronically powered EBus in Milton Keynes

The OU's Design Group is also contributing to sustainability in transport systems. It has examined the role of institutions and financial models in shaping adoption and use of innovative transport technologies and systems. And it is exploring user engagement with smart grid technologies and the design of new public transport systems.

OU research into sustainable transport systems, led by Professor Stephen Potter, resulted in his participation at UK HM Treasury Revenue and Customs briefings and his appointment as Transport Commissioner for the Green Fiscal Commission (2007–09).

OU research into sustainable energy and transport is now influencing the development of innovative transport designs for the development of Milton Keynes as a smart city, as part of the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) funded MK:Smart project.

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