Repository logo

The Take Up and Use of Green Technologies in Low Carbon Communities: A Case Study of North West Cambridge



Change log


Old, Rosalyn Kristina 


Against the backdrop of climate change, governments around the world are introducing requirements for new developments to be built to much higher sustainability standards. As urban areas face population growth, we are seeing new-build urban extensions planned to provide mixed-use, low carbon communities. Embedded within these sites we often see a range of different green technologies and features designed to reduce the energy and carbon footprints of the area.

There is, however, uncertainty around the impact of green technologies in housing, with housebuilders being urged, incentivised and required to provide sustainable features in new developments. Yet the impact of such technologies requires take up and use in the building sector and appropriate behaviours of occupants so that technologies are used effectively and energy and carbon reduction is achieved.

This research aims to establish how occupant behaviour can be influenced by design and programmatic features of the community and the resultant effect on the energy and carbon outcomes of a site. The University of Cambridge’s North West Cambridge development is the main case study, with a focus on the postgraduate student and postdoctoral researcher communities which will be the main occupants in the first phase of development.

Through application and extension of the principles of nudge and social practice theories, comparison case studies play a part in identifying the role of human interaction with urban visual signals in encouraging low carbon behaviours and delivering on the potential of low energy, low carbon technologies. The project evaluates which policy, programme, and built environment design instruments linked with green technologies will have the greatest impact in delivering environmentally-sustainable behaviour and associated carbon savings.

There are two core questions which the study addresses:

  1. Which features of a community (design, technology, policies, programmes etc.) cause people to adopt low energy and carbon behaviours?
  2. If they adopt these behaviours, how does that change the energy and carbon 'footprint' of the community?

Using interdisciplinary methods, the study uses primary data analysis to create behavioural groupings which are then matched to energy profiles. By linking specific policies, programmes and urban design features to each group, we can project technology take up and use across a site population, in building a series of scenarios which are then used to calculate resultant energy and carbon reductions across the site.





Crawford-Brown, Douglas


sustainable urban development, low carbon, urban development, sustainable cities, urban design, human behaviour, urban extension, low carbon communities, green technologies, visual signals


Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Awarding Institution

University of Cambridge
The Department of Land Economy