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There is more and more talk about enlisting occupants in efforts to reduce energy use. And for good reason: Occupants can be powerful allies in energy efficiency efforts. But for that to happen, occupants have to change their behavior. And if changing behavior were easy, everyone would act exactly how they know they should. But that simply isn’t the case. The barriers to changing behavior aren’t unique to energy reduction — they’re part of the complexity of human behavior. People continue to speed, accelerate too quickly, and drive their cars how they want to and not how they’re designed, just as they continue to waste energy.
To meet your energy reduction goals you must implement creative, approachable ways to overcome your organization’s barriers to change. Identify desired behaviors and eliminate barriers that impede occupants’ adoption of those behaviors.
For example, if your goal is to remind occupants of how important it is to do basic things like turning off lights and computers, do some homework in your facilities. Determine how much money is being wasted keeping computers and lights on afterhours and in unused areas. Identify how much energy is consumed keeping coffeemakers and other personal appliances in a standby mode. Having data to back up your behavioral prompts not only creates a sense of urgency and importance, it also helps benchmark and communicate future results. Inform occupants about tips and best practices — like closing windows and doors while conditioned air is cooling the facility — so they can take steps to prevent energy waste.
Improving energy habits is like adding an insurance policy to your facility investments. Engaged occupants, along with efficient systems and effective operators, are the central pillars to maximizing efficiency and shrinking utility budgets. If you’re unsure where to start, seek help from behavior-based energy consultants who are experts in driving low-cost energy-saving initiatives.
When your occupants have adopted habits that help rather than hinder your energy efficiency goals, you can maximize and sustain facility performance.
This Quick Read comes from Ashley Ruiz, program manager for McKinstry’s powerED program, a behavior-focused energy awareness and operational efficiency program, and Jesse Sycuro, P.E., CEM, LEED AP, the operations manager for McKinstry’s Energy Management group. Read more from them about ways to use occupant behavior to reduce energy consumption.