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Architecture as a strategy for reduced energy consumption? An in-depth analysis of residential practices’ influence on the energy performance of passive houses

Solvår Wågø (Department of Architectural Design and Management, Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Trondheim, Norway)
Thomas Berker (Department of Interdisciplinary Studies of Culture, Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU), Trondheim, Norway)

Smart and Sustainable Built Environment

ISSN: 2046-6099

Article publication date: 11 November 2014




The purpose of this paper is to discuss how architectural solutions may influence residential practice and energy consumption.


The paper is part of a larger study based on qualitative investigations of six energy-efficient housing projects in Norway. Here, the authors examine one of these projects, Løvåshagen in Bergen, the first Norwegian passive house flat building. Based on a combination of 14 interviews with household members and energy consumption data for all flats, the authors show how residential practices influence energy consumption. In the discussion and conclusion, the authors focus on the role of the architecture in these practices.


On the one hand, Løvåshagen reflects a mainstreaming approach to sustainable building, attracting a wide array of different occupants. On the other hand, the specific add-ons that are intended to make the buildings energy efficient require new definitions of comfort and new skills to achieve the promised energy savings. This combination can explain why Løvåshagen, after four years of occupation, has a large variation in actual energy consumption.

Practical implications

In designing new energy-efficient housing, greater attention should be paid to the level of end-user control and adaptability, the level of system complexity, and the need for adequate information. An alternative to the mainstreaming approach would be to actively use architecture to influence residential practices towards reduced energy consumption.


The use of qualitative methods to analyse quantitative energy data is original and provides promising opportunities to understand the significance of residential practices regarding actual energy consumption.



The authors thank the residents of Løvåshagen for generously sharing their housing experiences and the architect-office ABO Planning and Architecture for sharing their experiences in designing Løvåshagen. The authors would also like to acknowledge Kjetil Helland (ByBo), for providing information on energy consumption at Løvåshagen. Mathias Haase (NTNU/SINTEF Building and Infrastructure/ZEB) and other colleagues at the Faculty of Architecture and Fine Arts in Trondheim, NTNU, have contributed to this paper with valuable comments and input.


Wågø, S. and Berker, T. (2014), "Architecture as a strategy for reduced energy consumption? An in-depth analysis of residential practices’ influence on the energy performance of passive houses", Smart and Sustainable Built Environment, Vol. 3 No. 3, pp. 192-206.



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