Skip to main content
Open Access Publications from the University of California

The Behavior, Energy and Climate Change Conference is the fifth annual conference focused on understanding the nature of individual and organizational behavior and decision making, and using that knowledge to accelerate our transition to an energy-efficient and low carbon economy. It will build on the overwhelming success of previous BECC conferences, at which more than 650 participants discussed successful policy and program strategies, shared important research findings, and built dynamic new networks and collaborations.

BECC will bring together a diverse group of policymakers, social scientists, program implementers, media, and energy experts to explore the practical application of social and behavioral insights to address our energy and climate challenges. We will review recent behavioral research, discuss current and emerging policy issues, share effective program/communication strategies, and encourage collaboration across government, utility, business, and research sectors. Our goal is to achieve viable solutions for meeting long-term energy and greenhouse gas emissions reduction targets by improving the design, adoption, and continued effectiveness of policies, programs, technologies, and individual/organizational actions.

For the 2011 conference, BECC presenters have the opportunity to submit peer-review quality papers to be published here via eScholarship in order to increase the visibility and impact of the BECC conference and reach new scholars across our wide range of disciplines. eScholarship is an open access digital publishing service for conferences, research units, and publishing programs.

The BECC Conference is convened by the California Institute for Energy and Environment (CIEE), University of California; the Precourt Energy Efficiency Center (PEEC), Stanford University; and the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy (ACEEE).

Cover page of Modelling the impact of user behaviour on heat energy consumption

Modelling the impact of user behaviour on heat energy consumption


Our behaviour in our homes can seriously affect the associated carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. In the UK, space-heating accounts for nearly 60% of domestic energy consumption and 27% of total CO2 emissions come from our homes. Regrettably, low-energy building design does not guarantee low-energy performance. Controls systems, in particular heating controls, are often too complex for users to programme. This study uses real-world data from buildings, observational data from users and energy modelling to establish why people have difficulty using their control systems, and the potential resultant energy impacts.

Users were asked to programme an example heating profile for a week using three different control interfaces. Prior to attempting this task there was a preconception amongst users that they would be unable to complete it. Controls were found to exclude users due to the cognitive demands placed on them. A key observation was that five of the twenty-four users made a mistake in the programming process, which meant that the heating temperature was not reduced at the end of the heating period. This could potentially result in accidental heating throughout the day and night, unbeknown to the users.

Modelling this observation showed an increase in heating energy consumption of 14.5% compared to energy consumption associated with successfully programming the example heating profile. The modelling results showed that successful programming of the profile consumed less energy (in two of the three scenarios) than the default settings of the heating controls. Increasing the sense of perceived control users have over their environment may enable them to use less heat energy. By designing controls so that pro-environmental behaviour is, easily accomplished substantial energy savings could be made. 

  • 3 supplemental images
Cover page of Behaviour Change at Work: empowering energy efficiency in the workplace through user-centred design

Behaviour Change at Work: empowering energy efficiency in the workplace through user-centred design


CO2 emissions from non-domestic buildings - primarily workplaces - make up 18 percent of the UK's carbon footprint. A combination of technology advances and behavioural changes have the potential to make significant impact, but interventions have often been planned in ways which do not take into account the needs, levels of understanding and everyday behavioural contexts of building users - and hence do not achieve the hoped-for success.This paper provides a brief introduction to the Empower project, a current industrial-academic collaboration in the UK which is applying methods from user-centred design practice to understand diverse users' needs, priorities, mental models of energy and decision-making heuristics - as well as the affordances available to them - in a number of office buildings. We are developing and trialling a set of low-cost, simple software interventions tailored to multiple user groups with different degrees of agency over their energy use, which seek to influence more energy efficient behaviour at work in areas such as HVAC, lighting and equipment use. The project comprises an ethnographic research phase, a participatory design programme involving building users in the design of interventions, and iterative trials in a large office building in central London.

Cover page of What Are People's Responses to Thermal Discomfort? Sensing Clothing and Activity Levels Using SenseCam

What Are People's Responses to Thermal Discomfort? Sensing Clothing and Activity Levels Using SenseCam


Recent international agreements on reducing energy consumption have led to a series of interventions in residential buildings, from modifying the building fabric to upgrading operating systems. To date, these attempts have met with limited success. One reason for this has been identified as the ‘rebound effect’, where the occupants’ respond to their home thermal environment change in unexpected ways after interventions. Often people decide to turn up the heating, to leave it on for longer, or to increase the average spatial temperature by heating more rooms. Although much of the research on heating patterns in dwellings has focused on identifying methods to predict and to assess thermal sensation, less is understood about the way occupants form their responses. Research presented in this paper focuses on mapping householders thermal discomfort responses. Empirical methods, drawn from the social and cognitive sciences, were used in a several studies, which monitored a small sample of UK households during winter of 2010. One of the tools used, the SenseCam, facilitates an automatic electronic diary collection by logging occupants’ responses in a systematic approach.SenseCam results enabled the mapping of participants’ activities in their home, in particular the estimation of clothing and activity level throughout the record period. The preliminary monitoring results show that different householders are interacting with their home thermal comfort systems in very different ways, and that their responses diverge from the current predictive models. Further analysisexamines the factors influencing responses to thermal discomfort and thereby energy consumption of individual in dwellings.