Open Access Journal

ISSN: 2183-7635

Article | Open Access

Let’s Get Sociotechnical: A Design Perspective on Zero Energy Renovations

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Abstract:  The scaling up of zero energy (ZE) renovations contributes to the energy transition. Yet ZE renovations can be complex and error-prone in both process and outcome. This article draws on theory from sociotechnical design, participatory design, and inclusive design to analyse four recent case studies of ZE renovation/building in the Netherlands. The cases are studied using a mix of retrospective interviews and workshops, as well as ethnographic research. Three of the cases studied are ZE renovations of which two are recently completed and one is in progress, while the fourth case is a recently completed ZE new build. Three of the cases are social housing and one is mixed ownership. The research enquired into the situation of the project managers conducting the processes and also drew on resident experiences. The ZE renovation/builds are analysed as sociotechnical product-service systems (PSSs). The article evaluates how the use values, product values, and result values of these PSSs emerged from the processes. This perspective reveals issues with the usability of the PSSs, as well as with cost structures, technical tweaks, and maintenance agreements. Applying a design perspective provides starting points for co-learning strategies that could improve outcomes. Two example strategies that have potential in this regard are described, using demo dwellings and user manual as PSS prototypes in the early design phase. These and similar strategies could support the professionals in the field in creating successful ZE renovation/building processes.

Keywords:  demo dwellings; design thinking; inclusive design; innovation; participatory design; product-service systems; sociotechnical design



© Stella Boess. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license (, which permits any use, distribution, and reproduction of the work without further permission provided the original author(s) and source are credited.