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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Co-designing with office workers to reduce energy consumption and improve comfort


According to the EC Action Plan for Energy Efficiency, a reduction of up to 30% in energy use within the office and commercial building sector can be achieved through occupant behavior change. Multiple studies support similar estimations for countries outside of the EU (e.g. Lopes et al. 2011). Depending on the building type, office occupants can perform various low energy actions to increase office comfort (e.g. Barlow & Fiala, 2007). However, sustained behavior change ensuring energy-efficiency may be difficult when not embedded and enforced in everyday office practices.

This paper describes an approach based on co-creation methods as a means to engage office occupants to make them conscious of the impact that their actions have on comfort and energy use by reflecting on results from measurements and observations. Methods to create awareness include co-designing of a monitoring platform, self-reporting mechanisms and feedback systems, enabled by modular hardware and an adaptable software platform. Through the co-design process supported by engineers and designers, occupants define ways of how sensor monitoring, self-reporting and feedback displays can be introduced into their office environments to stimulate and guide their energy-efficient and comfort-efficient actions in the context of everyday office practices.

The co-design approach is currently being deployed and evaluated in an ongoing study, which is being conducted in three large office buildings, each involving an experimental and a control group. Co-design workshops have demonstrated the value of involving office workers in exploring how best to involve stakeholders across various functions in the organizations. Office occupants were found to be particularly motivated towards improving comfort, which can act as a pathway to shaping energy behavior.

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