In this presentation, guest lecturer Stanley Blue from Lancaster University examines the role that large and complex institutions –like hospitals– play in shaping demand for energy and travel.

The Institutional Rhythms project is based in and builds on the DEMAND Research Centre’s starting proposition that: resources like energy, travel, and goods are consumed in the course of accomplishing everyday working practices.

Drawing on examples and data collected from an ethnographic study of three large, acute NHS hospitals in the UK, Blue will show how everyday working arrangements, and hence patterns of total demand for energy and travel, depend on the socio-temporal organisation of hospital life.

Such an analysis shows that notoriously difficult to shift peaks in energy demand, peak times for congestions and mobility, and resource intensive and problematic hospital timings (such as time of discharge and waiting times) are, in part, the products of fixed combinations and sequences of activities constituted by the rhythms of everyday life, within and beyond the hospital.

This research explores new opportunities for unpicking, destabilising, and reconstituting the flexibility of such sequences and combinations of practices as a means of shaping demand for resources in large and complex institutions.

To conclude, Blue will reflect on how such an approach to examining the fixity and flexibility of institutional rhythms might be adopted at other sites for example, in considering how urban rhythms shape demand for energy and travel in cities.

He suggests that this approach has the potential for developing new ways of thinking about issues of adaptation, disruption, and demand reduction and for intervening in the making of future, sustainable or ‘smart’ cities.

Stanley Blue is a lecturer and researcher at Lancaster University working in the Sociology Department and the DEMAND research centre. His research is concerned with the social routines and practices that make up everyday life drawing on ideas from theories of practice to explore how certain ways of living and consuming take hold, how they become re-produced and how they change. In particular, he focuses on the spatial and temporal qualities of patterns of doing, living and consuming that impact on environmental sustainability and public health.


The entrance to Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital. Image by FrancisTyers via Wikimedia/CC BY-SA 3.0


RMIT City campus, Building 80, Level 3, Room 22


16 November 2016