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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Evaluating a Social Media Application for Conserving Energy and Improving Operations in Commercial Buildings

  • Author(s): Lehrer, David R.
  • Vasudev, Janani
  • Kaam, Soazig
  • et al.
Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International Public License

Compared to the wealth of studies on residential energy behavior, studies on the energy attitudes and behaviors of commercial building occupants have been few. However, occupants exert significant control and influence over energy use in commercial buildings, and it has been estimated that 20% to 50% of total building energy use is controlled or impacted by occupants. This study explores the potential for using a web-based social network to promote energy awareness and influence energy-conserving behavior in the workplace. The research team developed a social media application prototype and conducted usability testing with 128 subjects to understand the perspectives of typical office building occupants. The key findings presented are: 1) the influence of personalized energy information; (2) the influence of normative energy information; (3) the potential for sharing personal energy goals and energy data; (4) the effects of incentives such as self-selected goals or rewards, and (5) the implications of using social media for improving communications between building occupants and operators.Findings suggest that highly individualized energy information, at the level or individual workstations or offices, offers benefits for engaging and informing individuals about their energy use, and that the cost of energy is viewed as the most useful energy metric, a finding supported by previous research. Social aspects of sharing energy use information and personal energy goals were also viewed favorably by the usability test participants. Overall the study found considerable potential for using social media to engage commercial building occupants in energy conservation, and to improve communications between occupants and building management. The paper concludes with recommendations for the design of energy feedback systems including those with social media characteristics.

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