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hared buildings can present a challenge when it comes to

monitoring energy use and encouraging people to change

their behaviour.

C-tech is a five-year research project that is investigating innovative

ways of dividing up and representing energy use in shared buildings

to motivate occupants to save energy.

The focus of the research team is on workplaces, where many

different people interact and share utilities and equipment within

the building. The research considers the opportunities that exist

in engaging whole communities of people in reducing energy use.

Little work has been done in this area to date.

Ian Gillard is the Facilities Manager at Wiltshire Council, which has

been actively engaged with the research. ”Our involvement in the

C-tech project has been motivated by our goals to become leaner

and work smarter as a local authority. Wiltshire Council manages

over 450 buildings ranging from leisure centres to public toilets.

Energy is one of the major overheads for any building that we run,

amounting to over £4.5million per year. If we can reduce this cost we

can have a significant impact on our budget, and as a result on the

value we can deliver to the public.”

The project team has carried out ethnography – embedding

researchers in the council workplaces – and run workshops with

council staff to identify new opportunities to reduce their carbon

emissions, and to set new standards for energy management. “Since

joining the project we have made valuable changes to the way we

manage our buildings and the way we think about energy use,” Mr

Gillard says. “As a result of bringing together a variety of our staff

to interrogate our building and utilities data, we have made savings

- including 25 per cent of the gas usage at one of our main offices

by adjusting hot water heating settings. These successes have

added momentum to our own ongoing efforts to develop data-driven

management processes, and initiatives that actively involve all staff

in responsible resource consumption.”

The research also explores saving energy in a workplace setting

and how to motivate people who don’t have to pay the bills. A recent

study as part of the research explores how electricity feedback

is delivered on an energy display and whether this can impact on

people’s behaviours. The research, led by Dr Alexa Spence, found

that displaying electricity use in terms of carbon, as opposed to

cost or kilowatt-hours, raises the awareness of the impact on

climate change. This in turn appears to increase the likelihood

that people will behave in a broadly sustainable manner rather than

just focussing on simple energy reduction (known as behavioural


“Now we are designing energy feedback interventions that are

grounded in our developed understanding of how people may be

motivated and engaged with energy use,” Dr Spence comments.

“We are also crucially exploring how best to integrate these within

current or new organisational policies so that these may be effective

and continue to be effective in the long term.”

One of the team’s early developments is a game for engaging

people with issues around energy in the workplace. Called Idlewars,

the game involves “busting” your colleagues if they leave their

computers on and idle while away from their desk, and resulted in

some very competitive behaviour. Idlewars won the 2014 MACE

EnviroGame award as the best game for spreading the saving

energy message.

Other partners in the project are the University of Southampton and

the Centre for Sustainable Energy.

For further information, please contact:

Dr Alexa Spence



C-tech: Creating the energy for change