Zero-energy me - The struggle for individual energy neutrality

Andy van den Dobbelsteen*, Craig Lee Martin, Greg Keeffe

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution


The strife for zero-energy buildings and carbon-neutral developments is - however noble and benevolent - mostly aimed at an abstract target, such as a design in architecture school, a house still to be built, an urban plan under development. It is mostly dealing with there, then and them, rather than here, now and us. A sustainable, climate-, carbon- or energy-neutral society implies that each individual needs to be sustainable, climate- or carbon-neutral. Acknowledging this, the main author started to keep track of his performance in energy use, travel and food habits, and during lectures he presented about this openly to his students. Over a period of 7 years, the detailed tracking of energy, travel and food, and, more so, consecutive actions taken, have led to a lower energy consumption and hence carbon footprint. In the author's private life, we should say, because in the meantime his professional international career took off and so had many flights across the globe. They once more demonstrated that we, even when living low-carbon consciously, often are penny-wise, pound-foolish. This individual research clarified the greatest challenges and most effective strategies of living in a modern, dense city, with abundant access to unsustainable food and with easy opportunities to travel unsustainably for little money. As it held a mirror to the author, it will do too to a greater audience.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings of 33rd PLEA International Conference
Subtitle of host publicationDesign to Thrive, PLEA 2017
EditorsLuisa Brotas, Sue Roaf, Fergus Nicol
PublisherNCEUB 2017 - Network for Comfort and Energy Use in Buildings
Number of pages8
ISBN (Electronic)9780992895754
Publication statusPublished - 2017
Event33rd International on Passive and Low Energy Architecture Conference: Design to Thrive, PLEA 2017 - Edinburgh, United Kingdom
Duration: 02 Jul 201705 Jul 2017

Publication series

NameProceedings of 33rd PLEA International Conference: Design to Thrive, PLEA 2017


Conference33rd International on Passive and Low Energy Architecture Conference: Design to Thrive, PLEA 2017
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
Copyright © NCEUB 2017.

Copyright 2020 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


  • Accommodation
  • Carbon neutrality
  • Food
  • Net zero-energy
  • Transportation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Energy Engineering and Power Technology
  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment


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