Interactive visualisation system will engage tenants in energy savings

When retrofitting buildings, there is a great potential in involving the tenants, thereby reducing the consumption of energy further through behavioural changes. In the project SURE! Nordic Built for Sustainable Retrofitting, a visualisation system aims at creating an understanding of the different kinds of energy consumption, thus making it easier for the tenants to achieve more sustainable, energy-efficient habits. The behavioural changes are expected to affect the overall impact of the retrofitting.

This is exactly what is being tested and demonstrated in the SURE! project. The aim of the project is to provide a new approach, which not only reduces energy consumption but also enables a better understanding of energy consumption. One of the tools to create a better understanding is a visualisation system that will be developed and tested during the project.

Currently, one of the main challenges is to establish what kind of data is available in the different countries and different housing associations. The data is essential for the visualisation system since the data will define what is possible to show in the visualisation system. The intention is to use the data as close to the tenants as possible since this will have a greater impact on their motivation to change. However, this might be difficult in some housing associations e.g. because the heating central is including tree buildings, which makes it difficult to isolate the consumption of one building. Without individual feedback for the tenants, it will most likely be difficult to get the tenants involved and motivated for change.

Visualises the connection between activity and consumption
One of the solutions to enable a better understanding of the consumption could be to connect different activities to the consumption and visualise it. In this way, the tenants can see how much each activity consume, and which activities have the highest consumption. An understanding of the connection between different activities and consumption will hopefully strengthen the tenants’ possibilities for sustainable behavioural changes. Another solution could be to make the consumption available for the tenants e.g. on a website where they can follow the consumption. Currently, the visualisation tool is in the design phase and as a result, the final design of the concept has not yet been determined.

SURE_graphics_UsersDistillingUsers define the final solution
In order to develop an optimised tool, insights and experiences from tenants have been prioritised from the beginning. Through a dynamic process including involvement, engagement and interaction with the tenants, the project is collecting insights and ideas to get an overview of needs, opinions and behaviour. Together with existing experiences about user involvement, these insights will provide the basis for the design. When the design phase is completed, the wish is also to include the tenants in pilot testing and evaluating the solution, in order for subsequently adjust the solution. By including the end users in the different phases of the development process, the final solution will be adapted to the needs and preferences of the users, which in turn will increase the likelihood of defining a solution that will solve the challenges and accomplish the goals of the project.

Different cultures, different motivation
The solution developed in the project is being implemented in housing associations in Denmark, Sweden and Finland, and consequently, it will be used by diverse nationalities, cultures and social groups. This will result in different interpretations and types of motivation among the tenants. In order for all tenants to understand the visualisation system, one of the suggestions for the design is to remove as much text as possible and instead use symbols and icons.

Furthermore, people have different beliefs and ideas about their energy consumption and how the heating system is functioning, many of which may be false. By getting the tenants engaged and building a better understanding of their own consumption and energy efficiency in general, many of the false assumptions might be solved.

Barriers for behavioural change

Some of the barriers for the success of the SURE! project and the acceptance of the solution might be lack of time, financial incentives or ownership in relation to the environmental issues. Therefore, one of the important aspects is to make the tenants aware of the effects of their behaviour, and how changes in behaviour influence the consumption, explains Marius Johansen, Interaction Designer at Interactive Institute Swedish ICT, who is developing the visualisation tool.

To be able to create a significant impact in terms of sustainable practices, the project builds on current research and empirical insights from green living labs across Europe.

A barrier that is often stressed as a hindrance for change practice is that the consequences of your actions are either unclear or distant in time and space. In the SURE! project, the users’ feelings towards their neighbourhood and the relation to the neighbours is included, and the project will explore whether the users will take over a shared responsibility for the building as a hole, explains Munna Hoffman-Jørgensen, Innovation and User Involvement Consultant from Insero Business Services in Denmark.