Idea exchange: encouraging sustainable behaviour
by Sarah Marchionda on 19/06/2019
Last updated on 19/06/2019
On June 6, 2019, Innovation Lighthouse hosted a take-a-seat session at Provada focused on sustainable behaviour in buildings. The objective of the session was to exchange ideas about approaches for encouraging sustainable behaviour in buildings, particularly as it relates to the Building Energy Awareness living lab being led by Innovation Lighthouse in collaboration with hello energy, The Student Hotel, Bouwinvest and Redevco. The following is a summary of the session and what we discussed.
Buildings are responsible for over 35% of global energy consumption - including energy used for building operations (such as space and water heating and cooling, and power), as well as in the building construction phase (i.e. embodied energy). Global energy consumption patterns and GHG emissions can be influenced through the active participation of the building sector - including real estate investors, developers, building owners and operators, and building occupants.
The following image provides a framework for the implementation of sustainability measures in the building sector. The framework consists of four tiers: conserve/avoid, improve efficiency, reuse/upcycle and fuel switch.
The image illustrates the generally accepted principle that conservation and efficiency are the most cost-effective approaches to achieving deep sustainability impacts in the domains of energy, water and waste, in the operating stage of a building’s lifecycle. Consequently, the session focused on the first tier of the framework – conserving and avoiding the use of energy and water, by focusing on the behaviour of building occupants.
In summary, buildings are responsible for over 35% of global energy consumption. A tremendous amount of energy and water is wasted in buildings every year (for example, a report by ULI found that water leaks in the US are responsible for 1.25 trillion gallons of water wasted annually – roughly equal to the consumption of Los Angeles, Miami, and Chicago, combined). There is an opportunity to minimize energy and water and waste, and encourage sustainable behaviour in buildings.
Participants discussed the following needs and opportunities:
• Currently, the use of energy and water in buildings is not well understood. There is a lack of energy and water monitoring, and a need to better understand where and how energy and water are being consumed and/or wasted
• Building owners can start by putting energy/water data collection processes in place
• Currently, there is a general lack of interest and awareness among building occupants with regard to saving energy and water. In general, building occupants and tenants are not demanding to know if a building has a sustainability certification
• There is an opportunity to encourage building occupants to conserve energy and water by utilizing data/information and presenting it in a meaningful way - services like hello energy and Smartvatten provide these services
• Building owners/operators are interested in engaging tenants to behave more sustainably. There is consensus that engagement must happen in a creative way that resonates with building occupants. Examples include:
Embedding messaging related to conserving energy and water into the tools that building occupants are already using to interact with the property management company (e.g. an online digital communications platform that may be used for other purposes like paying rent, submitting repair claims, events, etc.)
Utilizing community events and groups to provide learning opportunities related to energy/water conservation
Presenting messaging related to conserving energy and water in a creative way (e.g. hello energy monitors in lobbies or elevators)
Embedding messaging related to conserving energy and water into local art/cultural elements
Providing learning opportunities related to energy/water conservation at community events, and/or through gamification among neighbours
Data becomes more time-consuming and expensive to collect as it becomes more granular/specific. Innovation/technology companies also face challenges related privacy and GDPR compliance. While site and unit-specific data can be useful for certain applications/outcomes, it might not always be needed to achieve desired outcomes
In summary, participants agreed that providing building occupants with meaningful information about energy and water use can result in an overall decrease in energy and water consumption. Some successful examples include:
‘Saving Energy when Others Pay the Bill’ - where Amphiro water monitoring devices were installed in showers at The Student Hotel. Hotel guests and students that were provided with real-time information about water consumption, reduced hot water consumption by 17%
By using data provided by Smartvatten, Vesteda was able to encourage building occupants to save water. By providing general information about water leakages – by communicating both the potential cost savings and the environmental impact in terms of potential savings in terms of litres of water – building occupants started using less water
It is important to shine a spotlight on these lessons and share them with the real estate sector. Some specific questions that emerged with respect to the implementation of energy monitoring measures, that could be tested through living labs, include:
• What is the social/behavioural impact of the use of interventions like - data, competitions, prompts, screens? How does this influence sustainable behaviour?
• How long do the impacts last? Is there a “drop off” point where the intervention is no longer effective/building occupants lose interest?
• How effective are the interventions for different segments of the population? For example, how does lifestyle, technology preferences, age, etc. impact outcomes?
Innovation Lighthouse recently launched the Building Energy Awareness living lab where we will be exploring some of the above questions. Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you are interested in learning more.