Orchestrating energy transitions: from ‘eco-bling’ to tuning the building

Publication Name

Social and Cultural Geography


Through their material construction and energy-consumption practices, buildings are deeply implicated in carbon-intensive energy systems, and important sites of energy transitions. Contributing to work that has highlighted the ways social practices and cultural meanings shape energy consumption, we examine energy management in commercial office buildings and its prospects for clean energy transitions. Through a case study of commercial office buildings in the CBDs of Sydney and Melbourne, Australia, we contrast the emphasis on shifting building energy consumption through large-scale technological interventions in the urban fabric with the unheralded potential of quotidian ‘building tuning’. At this scale, energy transitions are enacted through everyday and episodic practices of upgrading, maintenance and repair that remain largely invisible, though highly effective and nimble. The paper reveals how ‘tuning’ assembles diverse technologies, knowledges, skills and practices, to simultaneously cohere the building and foster building energy transitions. Our argument is that routine socio-technical work of maintenance, repair and upgrading not only holds the building assemblage together but underpins incremental energy transition. This opens out both the geographies and temporalities of urban energy transitions to capture the unheralded capacity of small-scale, routine interventions and the varied temporalities at which energy transitions operate.

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