Behavior change is a significant energy savings opportunity but one that can be overlooked. Owners, operators and occupants of buildings are ultimately the ones who make decisions about how energy is used or conserved, so individual and collective behavior impacts on energy usage must be considered when developing approaches for reducing energy consumption.
Behavior change is increasingly recognized as a low-cost, high-impact way of reducing an organization’s energy use, and the Carbon Trust estimates that an effective employee engagement campaign can save organizations up to 10% in energy costs1. For example, employees can reduce energy usage by turning lights off, adjusting thermostats to regulate building temperature and through procurement decisions on equipment and building improvements.
Les Robinson, Director at Enabling Change has proposed seven stages of behavioral change, which demonstrate the steps that a person goes through when changing their behavior2. It is recommended to account for each step when designing a behavior change campaign.
Elements of a behavior change program3
Behavior-based energy efficiency programs4 go beyond those focused on merely encouraging the adoption of energy-efficient technology. Using behavior change science, they employ proven techniques to motivate proactive changes that encourage energy efficiency. Components of a behavior change program would typically include:
Energy consumption feedback
Energy-use feedback mechanisms are valuable as they show users how much energy they have consumed and how their usage has changed. Feedback can be presented via dashboards, email or web-based applications, and information can be displayed throughout the building to reinforce the message. The frequency of information updates may influence the impact on behavior, and feedback can be complemented with comparisons, advice, inter-departmental competitions, online energy-audit tools and real-time information collected using smart meters.
Building energy use benchmarking
Tracking energy usage and comparing it to equivalent buildings can be used to motivate owners and managers to look at where they are using energy and where energy use could be reduced. The competitive element – comparison with other buildings – can often motivate greater action.
Commissioning and building energy management
Many commercial buildings are complex systems with multiple sub-systems and, however good the design, they need to be fine-tuned and maintained in order to function properly. Training building energy managers in effective building operations and maintenance procedures can be as important for reducing energy use as the new technology itself
Commitments and goal setting
Expressing commitment to take action can influence behavioral change. Goal setting has proven effectiveness at a top management level, driving improved behavior throughout the organization.