| Boiling Point No. 32 - January 1994 |
Energy and Environment
by Maria Nystrom, Lund Centre for Habitat Studies (LCHS).
For women in developing countries, the critical issue is their everyday environment - the kitchen and the house - and the constant worry of having enough fuel to cook the day's meals.
Improved-cookstove programmes have demonstrated that women suffer from the effects of sooty, smoky, and dirty kitchens. World Health Organization findings, from 1991, show that their health, and their children's health, is affected by indoor air pollution. Children commonly meet with accidents such as burns or electric shocks; badly organized work space puts more physical stress on women, and requires more effort from them to do normal tasks. Even when there is enough fuel, these problems remain.
According to a 1991 ESMAP/UNDP report, it is not evident that improved cookstove programmes have resulted in the expected energy savings. Nevertheless, an improved stove does increase the well-being of the user. If the stove is installed and used correctly, the living environment will be cleaner. An energy-saving stove cannot guarantee an overall reduction in energy consumption, but the 'saved' energy tends to be used for other household activities, such as cooking, or heating water. Vietnamese women report that cooking on new Thai bucket stoves gave them extra fuel to cook snack foods to sell, which improved the household economy.
The Stockholm Environment Institute's (SKI) improved cookstove programme in Vietman addresses energy end-use in the home. Other domestic uses of energy are: lighting, heating, laundry and ironing, dishwashing, water heating and small-scale business. As the household moves up the energy ladder, other energy enduses become important, such as entertainment, and keeping rooms and food cool. The introduction of new appliances, like a stove or cooling equipment, brings major changes: it is important to understand what these changes can mean, both for the physical environment (the house), and for people's behaviour.
The connections between the stove, the kitchen and the rest of the house must be understood before a good solution to the problems identified above can be produced. The kitchen is the main workplace in the home, and should promote good health, hygiene, security and comfort. The stove can produce many negative effects or discomforts, such as high temperatures and damp, and these, together with soot, smoke, and smells, spread throughout the home, affecting the whole family.
The Twin-House as a design tool
How can a satisfying combination of economical stove, user-friendly kitchen and healthy indoor environment be found? This was the aim of a research-project collaboration between the SKI and the Hanoi Architectural Institute in Vietnam.
There is no single solution. The stove and kitchen concept has to be adapted to the local kitchen system. The creation of a customized, experimental building facilitated study of:
-the pattern of cooking techniques and local diet; a the culinary activities and their interplay with other kitchen activities;
-the indoor climate and the influence of the kitchen activities.
The experimental building is a 'twin-house' which consists of a 'reference' apartment and an 'experimental' apartment. Parameters, like window and door openings, or placement of the kitchen, can be changed in the experimental apartment. The resulting changes in the indoor climate can then be compared with the reference apartment. The surrounding outdoor climate is the same for both units, which makes it possible to compare the effects of the individual changes. The twin-house is a good and economical set-up, which can also have a good demonstration effect.
Another side of the coin is that conventional investigative techniques were not developed for conditions in developing countries. The current methods for studying natural ventilation are, for example, computer-simulation programmes of wind-tunnel tests. These methods are developed for closed buildings, and are not suitable for open buildings and cross ventilation. In addition, they are too expensive to be used in a developing country.
The SEI/Hanoi Architectural Institute collaboration began with a very practical problem - to find a fuel-efficient stove and design a functional cooking area in which to demonstrate it. It has evolved to more basic research on the relationship between the stove, the kitchen and the indoor climate. Findings can now be tested in full-scale kitchens rather than models. It provides an input to training and dissemination, and will allow norms and standard designs to be developed. The household is a complex energy system, and there is great potential for involving other actors in the search for the most energy-efficient and healthy living environment.
This is an abridged version of an article which first appeared in Renewable Energy for Development, Volume 5 Number I (November 1992.) The results of SEl's work will continue to be reported in Boiling Point.