ENERGY POVERTY AND ARCHITECTURE

Recently, a story was published in the press about an elderly person who died when her house burnt down while she used candles instead of electricity because she couldn’t pay the bill. In addition, the City of Valencia has published a report, a first in Spain, showing that in Valencia alone, 15 per cent of all households suffer severe energy poverty.

Without going into causes rooted in deficient insulation and the poor condition of many homes with inappropriate electrical systems and installations, etc., I would like to reflect on my reaction to a picture published in the press showing the doors of the oversized headquarters of Union Fenosa – Natural Gas in Barcelona. The image also featured a few poor people, (in the literal sense of the term), some quite elderly, holding banners and timidly demanding a solution to the very serious problem of energy poverty.

Many, probably subconscious, images came to mind. Perhaps I had even seen them in a film set in the Middle Ages, where poor souls in tattered rags at the doors of the nobleman’s castle beg for food, shelter or some miserable work so that they can feed their families.

Relatively speaking, the two images are not so different. You only have to replace the ragged 12th century beggars with our country’s elderly and low-income families; the insurmountable walls of the medieval castle with the headquarters of the powerful power company that insults us all with its huge profits, often obtained from exorbitant tariffs, and its head office housed in a disproportionate, grandiose, expensive and certainly – and this never ceases to be a paradox- energy-inefficient building. Of course, all this is for the glory of the owners, who on the other hand, at this stage of the game, do not need to demonstrate their power and do not need to house their head offices in buildings that are simply unnecessary.

We already know what these corporations are capable of, while some politicians turn the other cheek.

Enrique Fombella, 23 December 2016