GoodDeeds: Digitally engaging & empowering employees for energy demand reduction

Lead Research Organisation: De Montfort University
Department Name: Institute of Energy and Sustainable Dev

Abstract

GoodDeeds will use digital technologies to facilitate behaviour change through engaging and empowering employees to reduce the environmental impact of public buildings. Almost 20% of the UK's energy consumption and CO2 emissions arise from non-domestic buildings. Behaviour change initiatives could have a significant impact given current estimates that around 30% of energy in buildings is currently wasted. The aim of the research then is to work with Leicester City Council to develop a set of social media/smartphone tools that the local authority can use to reduce the energy demand across its building stock. This research aims to explore the opportunities for and impact of digital technologies on user-behaviour and energy demand reduction in the non-domestic setting through enabling building users to both understand the environmental impact of their activities and to act in networks through social media applications of the digital technology.

For example, social media platforms offer building-users the ability to view the energy consumption of the building and offer comment if the consumption is unexpectedly high. Photos or video can be taken and posted of any issues; knowledge can be shared on how best to manage a room's temperature; visitors can share their views and energy managers can share best practice and gain insight from building-users if their building energy management system is flagging up an alert. Importantly the research aims to explore the potential of social media tools to overcome the lack of empowerment many building-users feel in being unable to control or affect the building's energy performance.

Findings from the project should increase understanding on how ICT can help society meet challenging and ambitious carbon reduction targets. Given the high energy demand and carbon footprint of the built environment there is a pressing need to implement effective and affordable energy demand reduction strategies in non-domestic buildings. The potential impact of Gooddeeds then is in finding an affordable ICT based solution for building users to collaborate, share knowledge and mitigate some of the errors inherent in the solely technical approach. This could impact on the way buildings are managed, building energy management systems are operated and how building users experience and perceive buildings. But this is not simply about buildings. Gooddeeds seeks to demonstrate that solutions to the grand challenges of our age will not be resolved by merely 'top down' solutions but by approaches that insist on the engagement and nurturing of active citizens who understand their responsibilities to their environment and to each other, and who act together for the mutual good.

Planned Impact

The findings from Gooddeeds should have clear economic and societal impacts as we explore how ICT can help society meet challenging and ambitious carbon reduction targets. Given the high energy demand and carbon footprint of the built environment there is a pressing need to implement effective and affordable energy demand reduction strategies in non-domestic buildings. Notwithstanding the valuable contribution sophisticated ICT based building energy management systems (BEMS) can make to reduce this environmental impact we know that purely technical solutions are limited and still at the mercy of human error. The potential impact of Gooddeeds then is in finding an affordable ICT based solution for building users to collaborate, share knowledge and mitigate some of the errors inherent in the solely technical approach. In the context of the built environment this will impact on the established organisational culture of how BEMS systems are installed, commissioned and (most importantly) managed. It will re-shape the effectiveness of public services through changing the relationship between building energy managers and building users. This could impact on the way buildings are managed, BEMS systems are operated and how building users experience and perceive buildings. But this is not simply about buildings. Gooddeeds seeks to demonstrate that solutions to the grand challenges of our age will not be resolved by merely technocratic 'top down' solutions but by approaches that insist on the engagement and nurturing of active citizens who understand their responsibilities to their environment and to each other, and who act together for the mutual good.

Gooddeeds has the potential to impact on multiple levels at an international scale. In the longer term, if this pilot project is successful (and effectively disseminated) it has the potential to achieve economic, societal, cultural and environmental impacts (e.g. through reduced fuel billls to companies; a greater understanding of the role social media plays in modern society; changing workers culture from being passive recipients of building management to empowered citizens, possibly leading to greater civic engagement in a wider cultural context; and reduced CO2 emissions from non-domestic buildings). Some of these potential future impacts can be illustrated by considering our case study in more detail: The diverse range of individuals, networks and groups that we work with within Leicester City Council will have a unique opportunity to participate in the development and implementation of a tailored social media platform. They will benefit from interacting and working with a diverse range of building users, colleagues, energy managers, building engineers and facilities managers alongside social media experts to pioneering this new approach to energy demand reduction; Findings from Gooddee2ds will directly impact the communication and engagement strategies of Leicester City Council alongside the practical day-to-day management of buildings. It is expected that these findings, and the actual social media platforms, could then be applied to a whole range of environmental issues as well as wider public services; Economic benefits are two-fold through reduced bills and because technical changes can be both expensive and time consuming to build into existing building stock. Understanding how building users can be empowered to take responsibility for their buildings using existing tools provides a quick win and affordable solution. Benefits should be both in terms of new and cost-effective processes to manage their building stock more effectively alongside the potential for an actual reduction in energy consumption. Finally, the solution of public engagement and collaboration mediated through social media platforms and smartphones offers an innovative and replicable approach not just to the management of energy in buildings but the wider grand challenges our modern world.
 
Description GoodDee2ds attempted to use digital technologies to facilitate behaviour change through engaging and empowering employees to reduce the environmental impact of public buildings. Almost 20% of the UK's energy consumption and CO2 emissions arise from non-domestic buildings. Behaviour change initiatives could have a significant impact given current estimates that around 30% of energy in buildings is currently wasted. The aim of the research was to work with Leicester City Council to develop a set of social media/smartphone tools that the local authority can use to reduce the energy demand across its building stock. The purpose was to explore the opportunities for and impact of digital technologies on user-behaviour and energy demand reduction in the non-domestic setting through enabling building users to both understand the environmental impact of their activities and to act in networks

The project was a success inasmuch as the core objectives of the research were met. A user-group was formed from a group of building-users in Leicester City Council, a web-based app was developed based on the recommendations of the use-group and was launched across the City Council. A full evaluation was carried out of the process via a facilitated focus group process and 10 semi-structured interviews with key actors in both the use-group and in the council. Findings from the first set of focus groups with the user group offer insight into the potential for a more collaborative approach to benefit building users through raising awareness of best practice with regards building energy management. In particular, collaborative approaches have the potential to empower building users with the tools and contacts to resolve issues more quickly. Yet there can be no 'one-size' fits all approach to non-domestic buildings with this research highlighting clear variations of engagement and interest in this approach dependent on building type.

Further analysis from this 'research in the wild' into the challenges, opportunities and barriers of attempting a collaborative approach to energy management in an East Midlands local authority shows that whilst encouraging signs exist that participatory processes can improve energy management, there were significant barriers ranging from limited localised control over heating controls to competing organisational priorities meaning energy management fell way down the priority list for most employees.
In terms of using innovative digital tools, findings showed that whilst there are positive signs with regards to the potential of increased user-engagement and ICT digital tools to facilitate behaviour change, notable challenges remain with regards to the implementation in 'real world' contexts of innovative approaches.

Further research is needed then to establish to what extent this muted response to digital tools is context specific or actually representative of wider local authorities and other types of organisations. Different digital tools, introduced over a longer period of time with a wider set of users could have led to a very different (more positive response). It is clear that the recruitment of the user-group is vitally important, as is resolving the researcher/ethical dilemma of leading the research from outside the organization.
Exploitation Route This research was fundamentally about changing the power dynamics of energy management in organisations. Due to the complexities of the organizational culture impact within the organization was limited. Although final reports and research outputs will be fed into the Strategic Partnership meetings and is way too early to determine future impacts. Key strategies are suggested for moving this research agenda forward.
Two conference papers have been presented and published at leading EU and American energy research conferences. The ACEEE in particular attracts a non-academic audience. Two journal papers are being written. One has been submitted to a special issues of Indoor and Built Environment and a second will be submitted to Energy Research and Social Science.
Sectors Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software),Energy,Environment

 
Description Research has gone to to formation of spin off company investigating energy behaviours in non-domestic organisation. It has also led on to further funding with the National Union of Students. It has also now supported the development of another EU project eTeacher that was funded in Oct 2017.
First Year Of Impact 2015
Sector Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software),Education,Energy,Environment
Impact Types Societal,Economic,Policy & public services

 
Description Leicester Strategic Partnership
Geographic Reach Local/Municipal/Regional 
Policy Influence Type Participation in advisory committee
 
Description H2020-EE-2017-RIA-IA
Amount € 1,996,113 (EUR)
Funding ID 768738 
Organisation European Commission 
Sector Public
Country European Union (EU)
Start 10/2017 
End 10/2020
 
Description Intelligent Energy - Europe
Amount £120,000 (GBP)
Funding ID IEE/13/719/SI2.675836 
Organisation European Research Council (ERC) 
Sector Public
Country Belgium
Start 04/2014 
End 04/2017
 
Description SAVES II
Amount £1,005,000 (GBP)
Funding ID 754203 
Organisation European Commission 
Department Horizon 2020
Sector Public
Country European Union (EU)
Start 06/2017 
End 12/2020
 
Title NUS Energy Dashboard 
Description A web-app energy dashboard - this taking energy data from a sample of EU Universities and presenting the electricity meter readings in a 'dashboard format' - this is too be used as the engagement tool for the National Union of Student's highly successful Student Switch off campaign. 
Type Of Technology Webtool/Application 
Year Produced 2014 
Impact Universities participating in the Student Switch-Off Campaign are having to install automatic meter readings via SMART meters. Whilst there is a only a sample of EU Universities at present this still equates to: 8% average reduction of electricity usage, compared to baseline year, across participating dormitories • 4.23GWh electricity-savings (1,902CO2e / 364toe) achieved, compared to baseline year, across participating dormitories, over both academic years • 3,773 students (15% of those in dormitories) living in participating dormitories recruited as energy champions each academic year. 7,547 students (30%) engage with the project each academic year • Quantifiable behaviour change delivered in students, with 10% swings on target behaviours (e.g. students switching off the lights when not in use) between surveys. 90% of students state they have carried forward the energy-saving habits learnt in the project into private accommodation once they have left dormitories • 2.85GWh estimated energy savings (1,284tCO2e/year / 245 toe) from students carrying forward their energy-saving habits into private accommodation • Project continues to expand on a self-funded basis, reaching 257,805 students in six European countries by Sept 2016 
URL https://switchoff.nus.org.uk