The Habitation Lab: Using a Design Approach to Foster Innovation for Sustainable Living
Journal article, 2013
This article describes a first step towards a strategy for using living labs as a means to foster innovation and develop new concepts of sustainable living from an architectural point of view. The overall aim is to enable truly sustainable living through radically reduced energy and resource use thus addressing both environmental and social aspects of sustainability. Earlier research has shown that contemporary housing developments, including those with a sustainable profile, do not profoundly question modern lifestyles and consumption, which is a necessity to overcome limitations of a technological focus on environmental efficiency in construction. Thus, we see an opportunity for the discipline of architecture to engage in current investments in living lab facilities in order to push innovation in the field of sustainable housing.
We introduce the concept of a "Habitation Lab", which will provide an arena for radical and high-risk design experimentation between users, building-sector actors, and academia, and we describe a case study of a planned Habitation Lab within a living lab facility where traditional solutions for daily living and habitation are questioned and new architectural innovations are explored and evaluated. The idea of using experimental activities in the field of housing is not new, and we argue that new investments should build on earlier experiences to avoid perpetuating misconceptions and repeating past failures. Furthermore, to ensure the dissemination and uptake of results, the design of the Habitation Lab should consider the innovation and learning trajectories of the building sector. We propose a transdisciplinary setting to provide a neutral arena for value creation and to increase the distribution of experiences.