Beyond Individual Persuasion

Beyond Individual Persuasion is a research project which seeks to empower individuals to understand and engage with their home environment and energy use through the use of sensors and visualisation devices.  Carbon Co-op is working with University College London (UCL) to deliver two case studies for the research.

Sensors and in-home displays have been seen primarily as a way to persuade householders to change their behaviour so they can save money or act more sustainably. Householders can be persuaded to, for example, turn the heating off when it’s not needed, or schedule heating for individual rooms rather than the whole house.

This research explores the potential for these devices to empower individuals to empower the user to engage with energy on a more collective level through designing, prototyping and testing new technologies. Through giving householders greater insight into the performance characteristics of their home, it may help them to be better able to answer questions around how to target interventions addressing building fabric, heating technology and domestic behaviour. This could, in turn, enhance the capacity of retrofit work to meet target objectives. Currently retrofits often do not meet these objectives, with research showing, for example, that reductions in gas usage from domestic retrofits in England and Wales disappear after three years.

The study will use sensing, visualisation, and collaborative design to support residents in communicating how they experience and engage with the thermal challenges of their home. For one week homes will be fitted with multiple temperature and humidity sensors, connected to a digital display. Residents will be asked to use the display to annotate changes in these values in relation to activities such as bathing, heating, or the opening and closing of windows and doors.

After this the residents will be invited to a workshop with other participants. They will be asked to discuss their experiences and to collectively consider means to resolve the challenges that they face. They will be supported in constructing visual ‘energy stories’ about their homes which will be used to prototype new ways of visualising temperature and humidity.

These collectively-designed visualisations will, in turn, aim to support new ways of understanding and acting on the thermal qualities of homes, considering fabric, technology and behaviour, to shape new approaches to domestic retrofit.

The project is led by Professor Enrico Costanzo at the UCL Interaction Centre along with anthropologist Professor Hannah Knox