A facility must harness the power of both the group and top leadership in powering energy savings. Building the right culture, using targeted messaging, and focusing on employee complacency are also part of the effort.
The social science of behavior change attempts to explain and harness the phenomenon of human behavior. Barriers like forgetfulness, inertia, lack of knowledge, structural barriers, or lack of peer influence all result in less-than-desirable behaviors when it comes to saving energy in buildings. By addressing the core barriers that prevent behavioral change, facility managers can help occupants change their habits. Ultimately, occupants and facility managers share a common goal of providing healthy and efficient spaces to live, work, and learn.
Successful, long-term behavioral change requires a total commitment of the entire organization. Commitment by only part of the organization can provide the impetus for change and may lead to some results, but will never yield your fullest potential.
Achieving savings goals starts with policies and direction from senior leadership. Occupants provide the passion and energy to implement that change at the light switch, thermostat, and outlet. Facility maintenance and operations personnel can oversee and optimize systems including schedules, setpoints, and day-to-day performance. Each level of the organization plays an important role in achieving savings.
As well, don't underestimate the power of the group. Group dynamics and peer influence are major factors in individual decision-making. To change a new behavior into a habit, that behavior must fit with social norms. How do you create a culture that encourages energy-smart behaviors? Recruit likeable and influential leaders — those both in formal leadership roles and others who demonstrate an innate ability to rally their peers — who will make a desired habit visible across the enterprise. Help these leaders motivate others through both words and action: demonstrating new behaviors, communicating about the importance of these behaviors, and encouraging others.
Occupants often simply forget to engage in efficient behaviors. Five o'clock hits, kids are sick, the meeting ran late, and who can remember to turn off the computer or the lights? Adopting new habits is hard. Studies show it takes at least 60 days of engaging in a new behavior for it to become a habit.
So how do you get from zero to 60? Remind. Then remind again. Help individuals overcome faulty human memories and build new behaviors into future habits.
While individual occupants are ramping up their efforts, facility managers can help curb forgetfulness by taking a closer look at scheduling and automation for building systems, setting after-hours procedures for custodial staff, and checking with technology staff on opportunities for automatic nightly computer and printer shutdowns.
Occupants are often unaware of their individual impact on energy performance within the building. Energy-efficient computer monitors, motion-sensor lighting, high-efficiency building systems, and other technology initiatives may make occupants complacent. They may believe that the building controls itself and they simply don't need to take individual actions in order for the facility to save energy. Additionally, not all occupants pay attention to their habits or are passionate about finding ways to conserve. Typical occupants go about their daily work and interact with the building in a manner that embraces comfort and safety and allows them to perform their tasks. Energy efficiency simply may not cross their minds. Targeted messaging can greatly improve occupants' understanding of their role in your organizational energy efficiency and sustainability goals.
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