Encouraging Behaviour Change

Effective engagement with building users is a key not only to good design of environmental control system interfaces, but also encourages pro-environmental behaviours.

For example, building control devices that give feedback to users enable them to take ownership of the information provided, and act on it to run their homes in a comfortable yet economical way.

CAR provides consultancy on techniques of user engagement, and input to the design of controls.

User engagement
We have pioneered a number of techniques for engaging building users, using questionnaire techniques to frame the important issues to be investigated. We find that workshops then play an important part in encouraging users to explore their own attitudes to sustainability using simple self-diagnostic tools. We believe that this diagnosis can be useful in customising information provided to the building users, for maximum benefit.

Design of controls
We aim to enhance usability of controls and support behaviour change to improve energy. The visual appeal of controls is very important: they need to present information in a clear and transparent manner, and be flexible in siting for maximum visibility. Customisation to suit the varying concerns of users – financial, environmental, informational and technological – is relevant, and also their specific styles of engagement, which may be gender and age specific. See pdf ‘Incorporating user behaviour preferences in the design of controls’ below.


Tenant engagement, Aragon Housing Association (2010-14)
Our role was in the design and implementation of a tenant consultation strategy to feed in to the design of controls. We carried out detailed interviews with a small sample of Aragon tenants, selected to represent a range of household composition and age of tenants. This was followed up with a workshop for a tenant group which further explored what mechanisms for behavioural changes might be effective. Notional designs for a control interface were also tested on the group. Research findings were incorporated in the design of control systems and interfaces for the scheme (implemented by controls engineers). They are designed to provide essential information in an uncluttered layout, assist decision making, and enable time-series data to be accessed easily.

Tenant engagement, Flagship Housing Association
A central aim of this scheme was again to enhance usability of the controls and support behaviour change to improve energy saving. We assessed potential upgrading measures for applicability and cost effectiveness, liaised with tenants and provided input to detailed design.

DEMULOG, EU Directorate XII (2000-04)
The DEMULOG project, carried out with partner organisations in France, Belgium and Finland, addressed the design of energy efficient housing for low-income groups. Social housing providers were involved throughout in briefing, specification and project planning. The design and analysis phases of the project were preceded by an extensive consultation exercise with families from the target income range.

Papworth Trust
We worked with the Papworth Trust to evaluate a retrofit scheme in Cambridge, using environmental monitoring and occupant engagement studies. The scheme, by SEarch architects, was designed to provide a low energy, supportive environment for adults with learning disabilities.

King’s Hawford School
We worked with building materials manufacturer St. Gobain on the monitoring and evaluation of the Bartholomew Barn that forms part of the King’s Hawford School near Worcester. Our brief was to monitor the environmental performance of the Barn, over the first two years of occupation. At the same time, CAR worked with the building’s users to collect information on their subjective experience of it. (See Building performance evaluation.)


Helen Mulligan
tel: 01223 460475

CAR worked with Aragon Housing Association and SDC on this retrofit project. User engagement to encourage behavioural change was an essential element of the scheme, which aims to save 80% of energy use.
CAR worked with Papworth Trust to evaluate a scheme by SEarch architects using environmental monitoring and occupant studies.
CAR monitored the environmental performance and evaluated the users’ experience of Bartholomew Barn, King’s Hawford School.