New Thinking: Science Fiction BBC3 Podcast

Hetta Howes discusses how science fiction extends beyond literature with Caroline Edwards and Amy Butt

It’s sometimes defined as ‘the literature of cognitive estrangement’. In other words, it’s a genre that helps us see things in a new light. In this edition of New Thinking, Hetta Howes discusses current academic thinking on science fiction, as a way of thinking that extends beyond writing, film and TV to architecture and beyond. With Caroline Edwards, Senior Lecturer in Modern & Contemporary Literature at Birkbeck, University of London, and Amy Butt, Lecturer in Architecture at the University of Reading.

Learn more by watching here.

Jacopo’s new book: Appraising the Economics of Smart Meters

This book focuses on the economics of smart meters and is one of the first to present comprehensive evidence on the impacts, cost-benefits and risks associated with smart metering.

Throughout this volume, Jacopo Torriti integrates his findings from institutional cost-benefit analyses and smart metering trials in a range of European countries with key economic and social concepts and policy insights derived from almost ten years of research in this area. He explores the extent to which the benefits of smart meters outweigh the cost, and poses key questions including: which energy savings can be expected from the roll out of smart meters in households? Is Cost-Benefit Analysis an appropriate economic tool for assessing the impacts of smart metering rollouts? Can smart meters play a significant role in research on people’s activities and the timing of energy demand? Torriti concludes by providing a much-needed survey of recent changes and expected future developments in this growing field.

This book will be of great interest to students and scholars of energy policy and demand and smart metering infrastructure.

You can order the book on Routledge.

DeepRED paper

Distributional effects of Time of Use tariffs based on smart meter electricity demand and time use activities

Dr Timur Yunusov1; Dr Jacopo Torriti1*.

1School of Build Environment, University of Reading. * Corresponding Author.

In an attempt to shift peak electricity demand, the introduction of Time of Use (ToU) tariffs may affect residential electricity consumers differently depending not only on their financial but also time availability. The aim of this paper is to identify socio-demographic groups which may be financially advantaged or disadvantaged by the introduction of ToU tariffs. We impose ToU tariffs on UK half hourly smart meter data and the synthetic demand profiles for different family structures generated using the 2014-2015 UK Time Use Survey data. The distributional effects of ToU tariffs are obtained for customer segmentation and socio-demographic groups, and presented in terms of peak to off-peak ratios and impact on the synthetic demand profiles. Findings on the distributional effects of ToU tariffs reveal regional differences (e.g. positive effects for high income groups in London) and household composition similarities (e.g. positive effects for households with children not in the high-income group)….

Please click this link to read the paper: Distributional_effects_of_tou FINAL_v2

DEGW Thought Leaders Symposium and Foundation Lecture 2020

2020 Symposium : 14:00 – 17:00, 18th March 2020

This year’s symposium Systemic Thinking – Remaking Livelihoods is being convened by visiting professor Stephen Greenberg (DEGW partner 1994-2000) and supported by Philip Graham, a partner of Cullinan Studio and a PhD Student at Reading.

Design thinking is at turning point

The early 20th century vision for slum-cleared ‘cities of tomorrow’ has been realised in urbanisation from Detroit to Dubai. This model depended on a fully-employed, pensioned and carbon-consuming economy that is no more, as the de-industrialised, de-urbanised Detroit exemplifies.

This symposium will address how design thinking could respond imaginatively to this new landscape just as the gurus of modernism did a century ago to unhealthy and congested slum cities.

 The ‘local’ context

AI; a lower tax-take in a non-petrol economy; life expectancy beyond 100; and long-term capital rather than short-term debt could all become the new norm, all under the cloud of accelerating climate change.

The challenge for design thinkers is to move beyond solving product-led problems in what has been a consumption-led economy. Thus, whilst UK politicians might tell us we need 300,000 new homes each year, we also do not need to demolish and rebuild, many distributional solutions already exist if we had the courage to grasp them.  Instead, the challenges we face as design thinkers are not in designing new buildings or better toasters. Now time, resources, longevity, human interaction and social care are shaping our environments.

In our ‘local’ backyard, the established and prosperous west and north, we are already experiencing a switch from demand for more ‘stuff’ to a demand for better services; the sharing economy and confronting environmental impacts.

The global context

For the rest of human kind in the poorer south and east the demand / supply response presents the reverse challenge.  Here, designing models for a de-growth economy is a hard sell. The great escape from shortage and poverty has yet to occur. It will require a programme of urban expansion, infrastructure development, agricultural reform and an increase in energy demand on an unprecedented scale. We may wisely council these countries not to repeat the environmental ‘mistakes’ of the past but not at the expense of delivering an escape from poverty that we take for granted.

 The Symposium Programme

 “Our symposium programme will address seven key interdependent societal drivers that shape supply and demand; governing, caring, living, learning, owning, powering and risking. We will invite speakers to present short provocations on how we might ‘design new systems of living’. Each will present a model or example that works in their area of interest or experience.”

 On the ground these drivers can be seen like a set of cogs or gears, synchronised and they work, if not they crunch up against each other. Change the gear ratios and the impact between land ownership, the value of the volunteer economy, the basis of universal credit or basic income change, as do the relationships and interdependencies between these key drivers. They tend to be thought of and managed in silos or government ministries rather than how they work together, holistically and systemically.

The keynote contributors are:

Matching demand to supply

Governing: Stephen Greenberg (Visiting Professor, University of Reading)


Caring: Prof Flora Samuel, University of Reading

Living: Philip Graham, Cullinan Studio and University of Reading

Owning: Beth Stratford, University of Leeds


Learning: Andrew Harrison

Powering: (TBC)

Risking: Peter Inglis, Cullinan Studio

The conversation

Our discussions will explore the viability of the proposals presented and consider how they could work as an alternative pilot within the UK’s current centralist, dependent and adversarial governance.

Any significant societal transformation is bound to be highly political and takes longer than one parliamentary term. However, the aim of this symposium is to explore models and systems that could work, objectively; proposing models that could form the basis of both further research and also frame a different kind of conversation with civil society and politicians.

Rethinking design

This also has implications for re-skilling the design professions, to learn relevant tools, understanding system design, and economic and policy language. New kinds of design thinking, social design, system design and organisation design are arguably well suited to responding to these new pressures. We will also explore how designers could become the new brokers, co-producers, enablers; mediators of new systems, and giving agency to those responding the changes we will need

DEGW Foundation Lecture

17:30,  18th March 2020

The lecture will follow the seminar.

This years speakers are Stephen Greenberg (Metaphor) and Steven Smith (Urban Narrative), both ex-DEGW partners. The subject of this years’ lecture is:

Space, Time and Memory

Both speakers will explore how intangible issues are beginning to dominate how we use and comprehend our environment at both the urban scale and at the more intimate scale within buildings and landscapes, and how in each case we move beyond the measurable. Both will draw on examples of their work both in the UK and internationally.

About DEGW

DEGW was an architecture and design practice fouded by Frank Duffy and John Worthington that spanned a 40-year period from the late 1960s until the early 2010s. It was and remains a ground-breaking practice renowned for its research-based design thinking and analysis, pioneering transformations in the workplace, learning spaces, and urban regeneration. We now take much of its innovative thinking for granted such as co-working spaces, business lounges and flight connection facilities at airports and the value to be gained by integrating spatial and operational innovation at the urban scale.

DEGW alumni continue the legacy with a core group Strategy Plus at Aecom, and many other former partners working in specialist areas globally. DEGW was both local and global from the outset, absorbing ideas and applying its research-based practice to client organisations.

The DEGW alumni have contributed their legacy to the founding of the new school of architecture at Reading University within the Faculty of the Built Environment. DEGW founder John Worthington played a critical role. He was instrumental in securing the DEGW archive at Reading as a resource for innovation within the university. The archive is both a time capsule of previous thinking, of meeting clients’ needs and helping to change organisations, but also as a basis for new research and speculation.  As a living archive, alumni and their successors will continue to contribute their subsequent archival material.

The annual symposium and lecture is an opportunity for alumni, University of Reading Faculty, students and other invited speakers and colleagues to come together to share ideas and highlight areas for further research.

About the speakers

Philip Graham is a partner and research lead at Cullinan Studio and PhD student at the University of Reading, looking at how the long-term economic benefits of cohousing can be leveraged to reduce the short-term development risks.

Stephen Greenberg is DEGW partner  and founder of Metaphor, master planners and designers for cultural and heritage projects, visiting Professor University of Reading School of Architecture

Andrew Harrison is a DEGW partner and independent consultant on learning and education planning internationally.

Peter Inglis is a partner and practice leader at employee-owned Cullinan Studio, currently working on a project that uses the Integrated Project Insurance model to reduce risk and improve collaboration.

Flora Samuel is a professor of Architecture at the University of Reading School of Architecture, a member of the board on the new Quality of Life foundation, and an expert advisor on social value to the GLA.

Steve Smith is a DEGW Partner and founder of Urban Narrative strategy and design.

Beth Stratford co-authored Labour’s 2019 ‘Land For The Many’ report and is PhD student at the University of Leeds, looking at the threat of rent extraction in a resource-constrained future.

For any further information, please email:


Special Issue of Regional Studies: ‘Re-imagining the future: city region foresight and visioning in an era of fragmented governance’

Dear colleagues

Please spread the word on this call for papers: thanks!

Deadline for abstract : 15th April 2020

LINK with further details:

The special issue will explore, at a city regional scale (which includes cities within their regional context), how foresight, futures and visioning studies are being used to develop new spatial imaginaries and redefine strategic planning for both shorter and longer horizons. The critical questions here include: who initiates and controls city region foresight, futures and visioning? To what extent are these techniques embedded within existing formal and democratic forms of sub-regional government, or do they work better in alternative models of ‘adaptive’ or ‘agile’ planning?  How are established methods of futures / foresight studies being used in practice?  How might mainstream regional strategic planning and decision-making respond and learn from the city region foresight and visioning?

Guest Editors

Tim Dixon (University of Reading) :

Mark Tewdwr-Jones (Newcastle University) :

Joe Ravetz (University of Manchester) :

Geci Karuri-Sebina (University of Witwatersrand) :

Inclusive Way Hackathon 2020: Circulation of Call for Applications – extended deadline Monday 10 February

The design of everyday wayfinding in outdoor environments
17th – 18th February 2020
a few places still available!

We are pleased to invite applications from students across all years and degree programmes to participate in an interdisciplinary “Inclusive Way Hackathon”. Students will work with people with disabilities and external accessibility experts to learn about challenges of everyday wayfinding in outdoor environments, and to design inclusive solutions by working in interdisciplinary teams.

For further information and an application form, contact Carolina Vasilikou

To apply (extended deadline) please complete an application form and return to by Monday 10 February 2020.

Successful applicants will be notified shortly after the closing date.

The exciting full 2-day programme includes a panel debate with external accessibility experts, an accessibility treasure hunt, design workshops, and presentations of design solutions. The Hackathon will be held in the beautiful studios of the School of Architecture at the University’s historic London Road campus, Old Library Building L46, Room G06, School of Architecture.

This event is organised by the Breaking down Barriers team, and is kindly supported by the University of Reading’s Diversity and Inclusion Initiatives Fund.

School of Architecture (Carolina Vasilikou)
School of Typography & Graphic Communication (Jeanne-Louise Moys)
School of Real Estate & Planning (Richard Nunes)
School of Biological Sciences (Faustina Hwang)
School of Construction Management & Engineering (Adrian Tagg)
Department for Languages and Culture (Ugo Marsili)

REDPeaK and DEePRED: The story so far by Jacopo Torriti

Background: why DEEPRED and REDPEAK?

Peaks in electricity demand bring about significantly negative environmental and economic impacts. In a de-carbonised future, peaks will be an issue due to the integration of intermittent renewables in the supply mix as well as electric vehicles and electric heat pumps. Not enough is known about residential peak demand and what levels of flexibility might be available. For this reason, the REDPEAK project was set up.

The overall aim of REDPEAK is to analyse the variation in sequences of activities taking place at times of peak electricity demand and identify users who might provide flexibility for peak shifting intervention.

Time of Use (ToU) tariffs offer significant potential benefits to the system by enabling responsive electricity demand and reducing peaks. For example, ToU could reduce the need for new generation and network capacity. The impact of more cost-reflective pricing will vary between consumers where those who consume electricity at more expensive peak periods, and who are unable to change their consumption patterns, could end up paying significantly more. Because little is known about the effects of dynamic tariffs on different socio-demographic groups, the DEEPRED project was set up to address this gap in knowledge.

The objectives of DEEPRED consist of analysing the distributional effects of ToU tariffs with a view to identify clusters of users which might significantly benefit or be disadvantaged through the provision of demand flexibility.

What we have been up to

These first two years of REDPEAK and DEEPRED projects have involved mainly of activities in terms of analysing; writing; and presenting.


We have analysed peaks in residential from many different perspectives. The main thing we were interested in was to understand the activities that constitute peaks.

The hypnotic image above above shows the timing of activities around the 24 hours of the day in spring/summer months.

For instance, we looked at what peaks would look like if some of the sequences of activities which constitute peaks were broken.

As another example, the figure above shows how networks of activities would change if we took away laundry from existing sequences of activities. This is a way of thinking of flexibility intervention not only in terms of technology and price, but also if work arrangements changed.

With this in mind, we compared for instance how peaks change for people who have longer working hours (more than 35 hours per week, left) compared with those who work fewer than 35 hours, right).

In terms of analysis of impacts of ToU, we looked both at differences across socio-demographic groups and clusters.

For example, we estimated the peak to off-peak ratios of active occupancy and different activities in order to understand which households will be advantaged or disadvantaged from the introduction of ToU. Single parents on a low income and households with children on a low income might be particularly disadvantaged from ToU as they tend to do more things in the home at peak time compared with off-peak periods.


Journal articles

Anderson, B. and Torriti, J. (2018) Explaining shifts in UK electricity demand using time use data from 1974 to 2014. Energy Policy, 123. pp. 544-557.

Alberini, A., Prettico, G., Shen, C. and Torriti, J. (2019) Hot weather and residential hourly electricity demand in Italy. Energy, 177. pp. 44-56.

Conference papers

Yunusov, T., Lorincz, M. J. and Torriti, J. (2018) Role of household activities in peak electricity demand and distributional effects of Time-of-Use tariffs. In: British Institute of Energy Economics 2018, 18-19 September 2018, Oxford, UK.

McKenna, R., Kleinebrahm, M., Yunusov, T., Lorincz, M. J. and Torriti, J. (2018) Exploring socioeconomic and temporal characteristics of British and German residential energy demand. In: British Institute of Energy Economics 2018, 18-19 September 2018, Oxford, UK.

Cardoso, C. A. and Torriti, J. (2018) Business participation in demand side response:  a review of potential barriers. In: British Institute of Energy Economics 2018, 18-19 September 2018, Oxford, UK.


Snodin, H., Torriti, J. and Yunusov, T., (2019) Consumer network access, core capacity. Report. Citizens Advice

Snodin, H., Torriti, J., Anderson, M. and Jones, E., (2019) Core capacity: interrogation of SAVE data & social science literature review. Report. SSEN


We have presented our work to both academic and non-academic audiences.

  • September 2019 Solar & Storage Live, Consumer Flexibility: Unpacking the Level of Responsiveness Available in the Residential Sector, Birmingham.#
  • July 2019 Ofgem Seminar Series, Household activities and distributional effects of Time-of-Use tariffs, London.
  • June 2019 Scottish Southern Electricity Networks Conference, Core capacity SAVE data & social science literature review, London.
  • April 2019 Citizens Advice Annual Conference, Power to the people, London.
  • May 2019. Green Alliance Roundtable, London: ‘Demand Flexibility’.
  • October 2018 International Energy Agency workshop, Research on demand-side flexibility: residential and non-residential sectors, London.

In February 2019 we organised a workshop  in Westminster which was attended by individuals from 35 different organisations representing energy Distribution System Operators, suppliers, policymakers, civil society and other universities.



Izabela Wieczorek’s project ‘The Cabinet of [Atmospheric] Curiosities: A Journey in Search of the Origins of Atmospheric Practice’

Izabela Wieczorek’s project ‘The Cabinet of [Atmospheric] Curiosities: A Journey in Search of the Origins of Atmospheric Practice’ exhibited at the WORKS+WORDS19 Biennale in Artistic Research in Architecture at The Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts, Schools of Architecture, Design and Conservation (KADK) in Copenhagen from 28th November 2019 to 19th January 2020. The exhibition, curated by Christina Capetillo, Anders Abraham and Peter Bertram presents contemporary European artistic research in architecture produced between 2015 and 2019, combining the making of works with reflections in words.

In this context, ‘The Cabinet of [Atmospheric] Curiosities: A Journey in Search of the Origins of Atmospheric Practice’ is presented as an on-going project, which both charts multiple ways in which spatial atmospheres have been theorised and materialised and engages with the development of new tools, methods, and creative processes that define atmospheric production. The project also challenges the boundaries between architectural design, history and theory, offering an opportunity for combining traditional modes of historical research with design-led-research, curatorial practice and artistic production.

Drawing from the fascination with curiosities cabinets—historically seen as a means of classifying and communicating knowledge through a collection of disparate artefacts— The Cabinet combines words, drawings, images and objects, revealing new and, at times, unexpected relationships between works written, built or imagined in the past and the contemporary theories of atmosphere. Yet, the documentary nature of the project is subverted by a creative inhabitation of the studied works, which are approached as territories for experimentation and invention. In doing so, The Cabinet becomes a site where histories and fictional scenarios co-exist and overlap, establishing multidirectional dialogues and opening up a new context for an exploration of the imaginative potential of the notion of atmosphere.

For more information:

Photography credited: Søren Svendsen

Interview with Jacopo Torriti

University of Reading Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Jose Luis Ramirez-Mendiola, interviews Jacopo Torriti about his work in Flexibility.

What is demand side flexibility in simple terms?

Demand side flexibility is the capacity to use energy in different locations at different times of the day or the year. Storing electricity, changing the timing of an activity, switching fuels, smoothing peaks in demand, increasing demand when there are plenty of renewables on (for instance on sunny and breezy Sunday afternoons in the summer) are all examples of demand side flexibility. What is more, in the case of mobility, re-arranging destinations and planning journeys differently in order to reduce energy demand and avoid congestion are forms of demand side flexibility.

Why do we need to make the demand side flexible?

In a net zero carbon future having more renewable sources of electricity means that there will be less flexibility in generating electricity whenever it is needed. Alternative ways of providing the flexibility needed to maintain the system balance will have to be sourced from demand. It is against this background that demand side flexibility is framed as way to integrate the changing needs of electricity supply.

Why are you so interested in flexibility?

To me, as an energy economist, flexibility is about opportunities to charge more for electricity consumption at certain times of the day, but also concerns around who will have to pay and opportunities to save money. Flexibility also relates to complex investment decisions, in which questions emerge around what the right price to pay is for higher flexibility. Research on flexibility represents a yet underrated treasure which has the potential to uncover not just how individuals respond to price and technology, but also how synchronised society is around certain times of the day. Flexibility is constituted and limited by the interaction of social and infrastructural arrangements including systems of storage and generation alongside social and institutional rhythms. These are critical for the fast-changing relation between the timing and volumes of energy demand, on the one hand, and the provision and consumption of energy services on the other. Identifying the scale of future flexibility and where and when it lies is a central priority for CREDS, along with the task of anticipating and addressing ‘flexibility gaps’ of different forms. 

Are there any key messages you would like to emerge from your research on flexibility?

What we aim to communicate is that our work is about unpacking flexibility, showing that it does not just happen through price and technological intervention. As a team we thought we would focus on one or two messages for each year of CREDS and connect as much as possible these messages with core areas of work for each project on flexibility.

And so, for now we have six messages we would like to communicate. First, the idea that an excessive focus on technology and price may end up delivering less flexibility (rather than more). We call this the ‘fixity of flexibility’. Second, we challenge the proposition that flexibility is a win-win for everyone. I have presented work on this as part of my inaugural professorial lecture. Third, there is a whole history of flexibility of demand and supply coming from historical examples and sectors other than energy. We are organising a Special Issue in the Journal of Energy History, which will capture some examples of flexibility form the past. Fourth, demand side technologies are not invisible as they often bring about changes in the timing of services. Fifth, price elasticity of demand is not the right thing to measure when it comes to flexibility. Sixth, variabilities of demand follow institutional rhythms: different types of flexibility can happen if in harmony with institutional rhythms.

How can we increase demand side flexibility?

A relatively narrow view is that demand side flexibility increases if individuals are exposed to changes in technology and price. Demand side technologies include home battery storage, vehicle-to-grid electric vehicles, smart heat pumps and other delayers for appliances and forms of automation in the so-called ‘smart home’. Price intervention relates to Time of Use tariffs, tariffs based on actual capacity, tariffs based on agreed capacity, real-time pricing, critical peak pricing, critical peak rebates and block pricing. However, it would be simplistic to think that demand side flexibility can only occur through technology and price intervention. Thinking creatively about the relation between supply and demand and the role of time can generate other demand side flexibilities. Some of these examples could come from non-energy areas, such as more work from home, changes in school hours and slow cooking.