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Built environment as mediator of good (or bad) household practices: moving towards sufficiency in middle-class houses in Pakistan

Panel: 7. Make buildings policies great again

This is a peer-reviewed paper.

Rihab Khalid, University of Cambridge, United Kingdom
Minna Sunikka-Blank, University of Cambridge, United Kingdom


Recent work in socio-technical theories has focused on conceptualising agency of the built environment in shaping social change. For energy policy, connections between building energy consumption and household practices have been well established by practice theorists. However, the role of the built environment in prefiguring household practices remains under-examined.This paper explores how the built environment mediates energy consumption in household practices and how this can inform practice-based interventions for sufficiency in space use.

The study is based on a comparative analysis of three critical case-study houses in Lahore, Pakistan; a typical modernist contemporary house popular among the middle-class today, a technologically advanced low-energy eco house and a passively designed traditional vernacular haveli.

Data collection included in-depth interviews with homeowners, observation and walk-through tours and indoor environmental monitoring as well as spatiotemporal mapping of practices using time-use diaries. Analysis reveals that the spatiotemporal arrangement of practices and resulting electricity consumption is greatly dependent on the house layout and urban design.

The built environment acts as a mediator through which variations in spatial arrangements have direct and indirect implications on sufficiency in space use and daily practices; for example, ‘recrafting’ the meaning of comfort, ‘substituting’ sedentary indoor space-use with more outdoor activities promoted through flexibility and prefiguring more collective instead of individualised practices by ‘changing how they interlock’ through shared spaces.

In addition, household practices are part of a wider system of building regulations and urban planning that need to be considered in housing policies and integrated with energy policies. The study suggests that understanding the links between the spatial configurations of the built environment and household practices can have policy implications for housing to move towards sufficiency.


Download this paper as pdf: 7-027-19_Khalid.pdf