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Taking care of heating, ventilation and air conditioning in times of energy transition: or how repair and maintenance shape energy infrastructure

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An ethnographic research project at the Institute of Geography and Sustainability (University of Lausanne) on

  • repair and maintenance of energy transition infrastructures
  • conditions of repair and maintenance work
  • spatial and social implications of repair and maintenance

The project investigates repair and maintenance of heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems which, although an important facet of infrastructural transformation and social change, has received little attention so far.

The project aims to document and describe technical routine and emergency interventions of service technicians, and the interactions with users, dwellers, property owners, work colleagues, specialists and superiors that characterize this domain of work. How do workers of selected facility management service providers and HVAC-specialised SMEs address requirements of indoor climate, comfort, and quality of life they are confronted with in their daily work? How are problems dealt with, which technical adjustments are made? Furthermore, to what extent does repair and maintenance contribute to a sustainable cohesion of urban landscapes?

The findings of this projects are of interest for industry, government, and civil society, more specifically for

  • policy and decision makers favouring new technologies and which are interested not only in ecological, but also social implications of the energy transition
  • institutions and user groups directly affected by infrastructural change
  • industry actors conscious of the relations between technical work and social cohesion which must adjust their work procedures in light of new technologies and social developments
  • designers and planners convinced of the creative potential of repairability and repair work
  • interest groups monitoring the re-organisation of working conditions in the facility management sector
  • education initiatives valuing the contribution of low-income classes to the quality of life of rural and urban settlements
  • consumers and users preferring repair instead of throw-away
  • researchers interested in the effects and implications of maintenance and repair in and for society

This project is funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF).