The Living Lab
In 2013, the Netherlands struggled with millions of square meters of vacant real estate. At the time, it was assumed that this trend would continue in the future as a result of a shrinking government, aging population, economic crisis, and the emergence of ‘the new way of working.’
Vacant buildings are almost no longer a viable option for renting as office spaces, even when the market improves. They no longer generate revenue for investors. In addition, areas with many vacant offices have a ghostly character that negatively affects the attractiveness of the area. The social safety around empty buildings is poor and the buildings tend to have a lack of maintenance and upkeep over time. At the same time, society faces numerous sustainability challenges that require a significant shift in behaviour.
The Architecture in Health and SEECE (HAN) lectorate, along with industry partners, considered the feasibility of using smart technology for sustainable renovation of these ‘hopeless buildings.’ To research this, an office building was transformed into a temporary home. A ‘home’ for foreign artists who performed social-artistic work to increase social cohesion in this working-class neighbourhood and make sustainable behaviour visible.
The main goal was to promote social cohesion in the Presikhaaf neighbourhood (Arnhem, The Netherlands) by using art and technology, as well as promoting sustainable behaviour change.
A secondary objective of developing the demonstration and experimentation space was to create opportunities for collaboration among students from various disciplines at the HAN.
Researchers, in collaboration with the Motel Spatie foundation, have established the first Living Lab. This Lab entailed converting a vacant office building into a temporary residence for foreign artists who would engage in social-artistic projects in the neighbourhood. In the residence, students from HAN and TU/e were able to use and test smart applications aimed at making residents’ energy consumption visible.
The outcome so far
Several smart applications developed by students from TU/e were implemented in the Living Lab, with the aim of promoting sustainable behaviour change. The smart designs made it visible when there was overconsumption. Although the products functioned technically, they were not always practical or usable in actual use. This living lab was the precursor to the Empathic Living Labs in their current form.