Are ‘home’ and ’smart’ contradictory concepts or fluid positions that will converge?

Kirsten Gram-Hanssen, Sarah J. Darby

Research output: Contribution to conference without publisher/journalPaper without publisher/journalResearch


Given the extensive research literature on energy in buildings, especially housing, it is striking how little there is on the home. Although recent socio-technical energy studies have begun to include ideas of what the home means to people, the concept of Home is largely absent from the thousands of papers in which building functions are analysed and modelled and the ‘behaviours’ of occupants are dissected and discussed. Yet within the energy literature there is a growing focus on how ‘smart homes’ in smart grids could be part of a sustainable future. In this paper we bring together these two discussions on homes and on smart homes, raising the question of whether aspects of smart home visions can be compatible with more traditional understandings of being ‘at home’. Or are the two fundamentally at odds with each other?
The first part of the paper examines the concept of home. We distinguish four different approaches to the concept of home including Home as security and control; Home as a place for activity; Home as permanence, continuity and social relations and finally Home as social status and identity. Discussing these concepts against different types of studies on Smart Home reveals that especially the technological approach to smart homes has a strong link to aspects of security and control in the home, whereas it is rare for any type of smart home study to focus on aspects of the home related to social relations and identity although these may well relate to how energy management might influence energy consuming habits. Strikingly little research involves evaluations of the smart home technologies in practice and we suggest more research on this, including questions on how smart home technologies might take part in transforming ideas of what the concept of home means.
Original languageEnglish
Publication date1 May 2016
Number of pages9
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2016
EventThe DEMAND Centre Conference 2016: What energy is for: the making and dynamics of demand - Lancaster University, Lancaster, United Kingdom
Duration: 13 Apr 201615 Apr 2016


ConferenceThe DEMAND Centre Conference 2016
LocationLancaster University
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom
Internet address


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