Anthropocentric Urban Sustainability: Human Significance in Building Automation

Lara Anne Hale

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


As sustainability in cities relies more on measurement technologies, and biometric devices -- communicative biological measurement technologies -- proliferate, building automation threatens to extend technological systems beyond the involvement of the people living in the buildings. Too many technological expectations of building users can lead to building system failure, but this article argues that attempts to uproot anthropocentricism -- the centric focus on humans -- can be just as erroneous, leading instead to technocentricism. Combining concepts from the Technological Acceptance Model (TAM) Science & Technology Studies (STS), this paper uses Active House building demonstrations to illustrate how building users’ interactions with technology serve to shape technological design bidirectionally with users, driving design that is relevant for and meaningful in sustainable cities. It presents potential modes of agency and a model of how experimental, interactive design within developing systems proceeds through stages of piloting, automation, overshoot, and then balance. This paper advances the discussion of the future of urban sustainability in that it: a) proposes a combination of TAM and STS, b) argues that experimentation is needed for sustainability-oriented technological systems, and c) presents modes of agency and a model that can be used to guide design.
Original languageEnglish
JournalSustainable Cities and Society
Pages (from-to)423-433
Number of pages11
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2018


  • Sustainable building
  • Anthropocentricism
  • Automation
  • TAM
  • Interactive design
  • Post-occupancy monitoring

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