Data-Driven Sociotechnical Energy Management in Public Sector Buildings

Lead Research Organisation: University of Edinburgh
Department Name: Sch of Informatics


Reducing energy demand from existing public-sector buildings through manager and occupant behaviour change is crucial for meeting UK carbon emission reduction targets. Public sector buildings account directly for 24% of UK service-sector building energy consumption, and corresponding carbon emissions. While there are many reduction efforts aimed at new-build, a focus on existing buildings is essential as much of the building stock that will be in place in the UK in 2050 is already built. Using an interdisciplinary conceptual framework, our team of computer scientists, architects and sociologists will work together to explore the interaction of energy technologies and building manager and occupant energy behaviours. Non-domestic energy demand will be able to be analysed in great detail across a variety of building types and uses, and the effect of behavioural and control feedback evaluated.

This project's main goal is to construct a feedback loop which provides information to building managers and occupants not just on their energy consumption, but also on what activities are using energy, how much for each one, together with suggestions for what they might do to reduce energy expenditure and use. The feedback loop will also be used in new automated control for building energy systems. We will construct these systems and evaluate their effectiveness by involving City of Edinburgh and University of Edinburgh buildings in a study over a two and a half year period. We will involve a variety of building uses including offices, labs, libraries, schools and community centres.

These systems and concepts will be explored in "Living Labs" in the buildings that will provide the managers and users with a wealth of information that they can use to reduce their energy expenditure. At the end of the study we will ask participants if we can use the data we have gathered, with any personal information removed, in future studies. Those that agree will be contributing to a database that will be invaluable for future research efforts by us and others.

Planned Impact

The main direct beneficiaries of the project include: 1) public authorities who pay building energy bills, 2) utilities and other commercial enterprises that offer energy-related services to public-sector buildings, 3) policymakers charged with structuring policies to meet the UK carbon and energy security targets, and 4) third-sector and profit-making organisations that are often contracted to deliver aspects of carbon and energy policies in the building sector.

Cities and universities beyond the study will benefit directly from what we learn about how to effectively catalyse behaviour change that reduces their estate energy consumption. This will save them money immediately, and will contribute to emissions reductions which will benefit them and the planet at large in the longer term.

Service providers will benefit to the extent that we can identify behaviour change strategies that fit with the provider's goals. Utilities have government-mandated requirements to assist in demand reduction, which our results should help with. If we can identify significant potential savings, this will open the door for providers to offer new profit-making services to building owners and operators to achieve those savings.

Policymakers will benefit because for the first time we will be able to quantify the potential savings from providing behavioural feedback to building occupants. There is much speculation about potential savings but very little in the way of hard data - this project will remedy that lack. Quantification will enable policymakers to better plan the strategies for delivering the UK 2020 and 2050 emission targets.

Organisations that are already active in demand-reduction policy delivery will benefit because they will have more accurate advice and potentially a new set of tools to offer building occupants in the drive for demand reduction.

Indirectly, everyone in the UK will benefit from demand reduction because, as an activity that increases the efficiency with which energy is used in buildings (adequate comfort and convenience delivered with less energy), it will contribute to UK economic competitiveness. In macroeconomic terms, demand reduction translates to lower costs for services and eventually consumers, freeing up discretionary spending which boosts growth.

Additionally, everyone in the UK will benefit from demand reduction to the extent that it results in lower emissions, and therefore reduced requirement for and cost of mitigation measures.
Title LILEE - The Little Interface for Lab Equipment Efficiency 
Description LILEE is a low-cost (around £50) internet of things (IoT) device that is designed to be retrofitted to individual pieces of lab equipment, giving them communication, automation, regulation, and monitoring capabilities. Using contactless RFID authentication, lab users can login to any LILEE device and use its touch-screen interface to make bookings and receive training on how to use the equipment efficiently. LILEE assists lab users in sharing equipment by analysing existing bookings and automatically making sharing suggestions. LILEE can also be linked to a smart plug, which can monitor the equipment's energy use and automatically turn the equipment on/off based on booking information. 
Type Of Art Artefact (including digital) 
Year Produced 2018 
Impact Two LILEE devices have been deployed in the Roslin Institute alongside two benchtop shaking incubators as part of a pilot study. During this period, the operational hours of the two incubators have dropped by 24% and 45%1. Extrapolating these figures over a year results in an estimated a cost/energy saving of around £113/1256 kWh per incubator, per year2. There are 9 incubators in the Roslin Institute, giving a total estimated saving of around £1k per year for these devices alone. If similar savings can be achieved when LILEE is used alongside other devices, such as water baths - of which The Roslin Institute has 40 - then the projected cost savings approach £4k per year3. Scaling this up across more of the University's laboratories presents potential yearly cost savings in the order of tens of thousands of pounds (hundreds of megawatt hours in energy savings). Roughly a third of the bookings made using LILEE resulted in users sharing the equipment. Analysis of booking data indicates that the larger usage drop for one of the incubators may have been a result of LILEE facilitating shared bookings on the adjacent, newer incubator. Whilst these findings are only preliminary, the indication is that more widespread use of LILEE has the potential to bring about substantial energy savings in laboratories. This potential is heightened by the fact that LILEE's full functionality - with respect to automation, feedback, and equipment management - has yet to be realised. 
Description We have developed a co-creational method for working with people on large organisations to use digital interventions to help reduce energy use. This has manifested in two specific artefacts as well as a general methodology.
Exploitation Route We expect the findings and artefacts can be used in similar types of spaces (event spaces, and scientific labs, and possibly general open-plan offices), and the methodology could also be tried in other types of spaces to see if it generalises.
Sectors Creative Economy


Leisure Activities

including Sports

Recreation and Tourism



Museums and Collections

Pharmaceuticals and Medical Biotechnology

Description In our work with the City Council, our findings have been used by the entertainment venue to make their offering more energy efficient. The City Council is now considering expanding the use of the methods to other cultural venues in their estate. In the work with the Roslin institute, we developed tools (LILEE) that are part of the lab-automation development. These examples contribute to the ongoing movement from manual lab experimentation to digital and robotic. LILEE continues to be in use at the Roslin Institute, and we are working with the University of Edinburgh to widen its use to many more, if not all, life science labs at the University. The "energy game" we developed to work with the City Council has garnered interest from industry. A large retail organisation is adopting it as a method of engaging their staff in achieving their corporate objectives around energy efficiency and emissions reduction, and we have also had interest from a consultancy in Ireland.
First Year Of Impact 2019
Sector Creative Economy,Energy,Leisure Activities, including Sports, Recreation and Tourism,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections,Pharmaceuticals and Medical Biotechnology
Impact Types Cultural



Description DecarbonISation PAThways for Cooling and Heating (DISPATCH)
Amount £1,401,881 (GBP)
Funding ID EP/V042955/1 
Organisation Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 09/2021 
End 09/2024
Description Research Network
Amount £28,211 (GBP)
Funding ID EP/L013681/1 
Organisation Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 06/2013 
End 06/2017
Description Energy Use at the Assembly Rooms Informing the General Public 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact The City of Edinburgh's cultural venue The Assembly Rooms is one of the many venues hosting events during the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. During the 2018 Festival we were tracking the weekly energy use of the building and displaying the information in an easy to digest format in the foyer of the building. 76K Festival visitors passed through the foyer during the 4 weeks of the festival. The visual moving display called the 'Power of the Festival' gave the opportunity to engage the general public in energy use, relating energy used in the Assembly Rooms to domestic energy use to make it meaningful for the public.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
Description SICSA DemoFest 2018 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact Over 300 participants took part in the event. The Enhance project had a stand where we presented a Poster "Enhance: Digital Innovations for Behaviour-Based Energy Reduction in Organisations. A looping video presentation was shown and one of the outputs from the project, namely the LILEE: The Little Interface for Lab Equipment Efficiency, was demonstrated. One of the researchers Dr. Lynda Webb was present at the stand and a variety of people came over to discuss the project including Scottish Government officials, private and investment companies, Business Development Executives and researchers from other Universities.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018