PowerSmart Cubes Using Voyeurism For Sustainability

I was downtown running errands today and stopped by the PowerSmart cubes at the Southwest corner of Granville and Georgia Streets.  The displays are partly hidden by the Granville SkyTrain Station entrance so walk around it to find them.

October is PowerSmart month. This is the month where we try being more conscious of our energy consumption, and hopefully continuing that awareness for the rest of the year. It means that you and I should buy energy efficient products and cultivate energy saving habits.

You might ask, who started PowerSmart month anyway? I guess it’s  B.C. Hydro. To kick off the month, they put together the PowerSmart Cubes which are two containers that recreate condensed versions of condo living spaces. Two actors are hired to “live” inside the cubes  from 6am-10pm. Everything is visible to pedestrians through panes of glass.

The cubes are furnished identically but energy usage differs. One is the energy saving cube in which the actor practices energy saving habits, while the other is the energy wasting cube in which the actor lives like an energy hog.

The purpose of these installations is to show the amount of energy that can be saved if we all lived like the guy in the energy saving cube.

The above is the inefficient energy usage cube. Note that all the lights, the T.V. and the computer have been left on even though the inhabitant has stepped out for a moment.

This is the energy efficient cube. Note that all the lights and unused electronic devices have been turned off.  The guy sitting on the couch is the hired actor. (The other guy was fixing something inside) Can you imagine be hired to live your daytime hours on the corner of Granville and Georgia? What would you do? How could you relax?

The reason why these installations are interesting is because they invite voyeurism. They are similar to performance art where artists puts themselves on display in an intimate setting for an extended period of time.

But let’s turn to the matter at hand. Do these cubes raise awareness about energy consumption? The obvious answer is yes, but let’s talk about how it may lead to changes in behaviour. By creating and furnishing a  space that people recognize as a home, the displays help viewers recognize common household items that consume energy in their own home. Humans inside the cubes activate the spaces. You see that a light needs to be turned off, and you see someone who does not do it. When these same circumstances arise in your own home, you will be better able to notice it and subsequently, to take action.

And there you have it, voyeurism in service to sustainability.

I answered an anonymous survey and received two freebies, a four minute shower timer and a reusable bag.

The PowerSmart displays will be on until October 8th. There will also be tours of inside the cubes that day between 12:oopm-2:00pm. Also you can learn more and enter contests at PowerSmart Month. Remember to turn off the lights!



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