New eViz publication


A new paper has been published from the eViz project as part of a special issue on “Narratives and Storytelling” in Energy Research and Social Science. The paper uses a mental model approach to investigate thoughts around heat flows in the home. Click here to view the paper.

Mental models of heat: Exploring how people think about heat flows in the home

Julie Goodhew, Sabine Pahl, Steve Goodhew & Christine Boomsma

To achieve energy efficiency targets, the behaviour of building occupants is critical in counteracting or enhancing efficiency measures. Yet behaviour and decisions are construed through the lens of the mental models that occupants hold. We used a mental models methodology to extend previous research in order to elicit occupants’ (N = 25) wider models around how they believe heat operates in their home. The research aim was to analyse the stories of heating, to reveal beliefs that occupants use when ‘operating’ their buildings. Twenty-five participants were asked to relate how they imagined (i) how their thermostat operated, (ii) how quickly their home heated up, (iii) where heat goes to when the heat source is switched off, (iv) how insulation works, (v) how heat flows around the home. We document the variety of mental models and specific features, e.g. how a high internal temperature can stem from a goal to feel warm fast, that when occupants use ‘technical’ vocabulary they may be imagining a different process from ‘experts’, how people use analogies such as wetsuits and weather patterns. We discuss the implications for energy efficiency. The stories of building users around how they operate their heating systems reveal assumptions that influence behaviour and can inform future communications.

eViz contribution to PERSON

Sabine - PERSON

copyright: Jaliene Kwakkel PERSON

On 14 June 2016 the PERSON platform held its third meeting during the Sustainable Energy Week in Brussels. Sabine Pahl was invited to talk about the eViz Project and the role of energy visualisation.

Sabine - PERSON 2

Copyright: Jaliene Kwakkel PERSON


PERSON (The European Platform for Energy Research in the Socio-economic Nexus) aims to connect independent experts across Europe and to unite and advice socio-economic energy research on the human dimensions of sustainable energy transitions.



Teddinet Energy-Feedback Symposium


On 4-5 July 2016 Matthew Fox attended the Teddinet first Energy-Feedback Symposium on behalf of the eViz Project. During the symposium insights from academia, industry and policy were shared. Matthew presented on: Lessons on Visual Feedback from the eViz Project: The evidence for using thermal images as a visual intervention. 

Materials from the event, including the slides from Matthew’s talk, can be found on the Teddinet website.

Matthew has also recently published a paper on the use of thermography in detecting building defects, which can be found here:

Fox, M., Goodhew, S & De Wilde, P. (2016). Building defect detection: External versus internal thermography. Building and Environment, 105, 317-331.


New eViz Publications

Three new papers on eViz research have recently been published:


The workplace offers opportunities for energy savings, but few studies have evaluated the effect of energy feedback in offices. This paper reports a case study of an energy visualisation intervention among social care staff. The research examined the role of feedback design (simple graphs vs. visualisation) and discusses the feasibility of implementing a near real-time visual feedback intervention into a work setting with staff keenly aware of their primary job roles. The findings show a staff sample with positive beliefs towards energy saving, but bounded by low feelings of self-efficacy, weak social norms, and perceived barriers in the office. Feedback may have supported feelings of collective efficacy and encouraged staff to talk with colleagues about ways to save energy. But engagement with feedback – and energy use in general – was limited. Energy use was embedded in other concerns and issues, such as a strong team culture and wider problems in the building. The case study highlights the complexities of energy-related behaviours in the workplace and the role visualising energy could play in this context. Engagement will be a key challenge in achieving successful feedback initiatives; we provide recommendations to tackle this challenge and identify areas for future research.


This study examined the use of thermal imaging as a communication tool that allows householders to ‘see’ where a building is losing heat. We tested the effect of tailored and non-tailored thermal images on energy beliefs, behavioural intentions and a simple self-report behaviour question in an English field study. Householders received tailored thermal images of their home, thermal images of other homes with typical problems for the area (‘non-tailored’), or information on the same typical problems in text format. A post-intervention survey (N = 233) indicated that showing occupants any thermal image (tailored or non-tailored) led to higher vividness when recalling the communication, compared to text-only information. Householders engaged with the reports to a greater extent when they were personal to their home: the tailored thermal images were more likely to be shared with others and led to stronger energy saving intentions and reporting energy efficiency behaviour compared to non-tailored reports. This is a promising approach integrating technology and social science knowledge and methods.

eViz Research featured in Nature Energy

nature energy

Our work on thermal imaging has been featured in the first issue of Nature Energy. In a ‘News and Views’ article, Linda Steg discusses a recent eViz paper:

a study published in Environment and Behavior by Julie Goodhew and colleagues at Plymouth University reveals that thermal imaging is an effective tool for promoting household energy conservation. [...] The researchers show that such images motivated households to take actions to prevent heat losses in their homes.”

For the full article, follow this link.

eViz event slides – Now available to download

The presentation slides from the final eViz event are now available to download via the links below.

We want to thank all our speakers for helping to make the event a success!

Click here to download the slides for the eViz Summary

Presented by Sabine Pahl, Associate Professor (Reader) in Psychology. And Prof. Pieter de Wilde, Chair of Building Performance Analysis.

University of Plymouth – eViz PI’s


Teddinet Opening

Dan van der Horst - Introduction eViz and TEDDINET

Senior Lecturer in Environment and Society; TEDDINET PI, University of Edinburgh

Keynote Speakers

Michael Harrison - Behaviour change and smart metering-related interventions

Head of Benefits and Evaluation, Smart Metering Implementation Programme, DECC

“I believe that the project provides important and timely evidence and pointers for future policy development and delivery in energy efficiency. Taking an interdisciplinary approach, integrating social sciences with ICT and building science, has been critical to the project’s success, since it’s vital that visualisation approaches are properly understood in terms of how they work, for whom and in what context, as well as from a technological innovation perspective.”

Mark Wray - Innovate UK @ eViz – Preparing for an uncertain future

Lead Technologist – Built Environment, Innovate UK

“The e-Viz project makes a great contribution in improving the users relationship with energy.  If we are to reduce our GHG emissions to meet our legally binding targets we have to improve our understanding of how we use energy and where wastage can be eliminated.  Visualisation techniques play an important role in improving this understanding and the e-Viz project makes a valued contribution.  At Innovate UK we are planning an extensive Visioning exercise to identify innovative solutions we will need to advance our journey to lower carbon emissions over the next 10 years.  We see visualisation technologies as a key solution needed on this journey.”

Robert Pannell - The vision at the Zero Carbon Hub for the future of energy efficiency of buildings & policy developments

Managing Director, Zero Carbon Hub

“The eVIZ event held at Plymouth University on the 9th. September gave attendees a unique opportunity to learn  more about how people interact with the building they occupy. The meeting also stressed the importance of data collection to inform key processes and practices. An excellent event with enjoyable presentations.”

Glenn Goodall - RCUK Energy Programme

Portfolio Manager for Energy Efficiency, Urban Living, Wind Power and Marine Energy – Research Councils UK Energy Programme, EPSRC

“I found the meeting extremely useful, I often read proposals and don’t get a full understanding of the impact or size of the research involved - these events bring everything into focus. It was also interesting to see how the different disciplines interact and work together.”

eViz – The Next Level

Stephen Sheppard - Scaling up with visualization tools to engage a wider public on community energy

Professor at the University of British Colombia in the School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture. Director of the Collaborative for Advanced Landscape Planning.

Alba Fuertes - EnerGAware

Associate Professor in Construction Engineering and Management, Plymouth University.

eViz Researchers present Energy Visualisation Tools

On 10 September over 70 researchers and representatives from a range of sectors met in Plymouth to discuss tools developed as part of our eViz project. All partner universities were represented (Plymouth, Birmingham, Bath and Newcastle), bringing together such diverse fields as Psychology, Building science and Computer sciences.


The tools are designed to be exciting and engaging in order to communicate energy use and lead to energy savings. Prototypes shown included a virtual reality home, social media architecture and an energy simulation app. In eViz we have also used thermal imaging extensively as another type of energy visualisation and on Thursday we showed new low-cost thermal imaging attachments for smartphones that are now available on the market.


Representatives from the Department of Energy and Climate Change (Michael Harrison), Innovate UK (Mark Wray), the Engineering and Physical Research Council (Glenn Goodall) and the Zero Carbon Hub (Rob Pannell) contributed keynote speeches and took part in a lively panel discussion.


After Sabine Pahl and Pieter de Wilde presented a summary of eViz results, two invited speakers discussed eViz developments in British Columbia (Stephen Sheppard, University of British Columbia) and the UK (Alba Fuertes, Plymouth University) respectively. Alba introduced our new project enerGAware, a 3-year European project that investigates serious gaming to help social housing tenants get on top of their bill. So, Plymouth University is building its reputation in energy research and making strong links nationally and internationally.

1558206 1558209

 Presentation slides will be available to download from this website soon. 

Public open evening event: eViz Showcase

smeaton tower very good

We will be holding a separate open event for the public in the evening, after our daytime event (see post below). There will be a showcase of the eViz findings for you to see, some demonstrations of energy visualisations and staff on hand to discuss the work.

The evening showcase will take place 7.00 – 8.30pm in the Rolle Building, Room 605, Plymouth University.  You do not need to register for this event, please feel free to turn up on the evening.


eViz final event – Energy visualisation: Lessons learned from the eViz project

thermal image PU

Image copyright: Matthew Fox, Environmental building group – Plymouth University

Our project on energy visualisation will soon be coming to an end and a final event will be held on September 10th in Plymouth.

This event will disseminate the findings from the eViz project as well as providing an opportunity for knowledge transfer and identifying future funding opportunities. Speakers are confirmed from DECC, EPSRC, Innovate UK, Carbon Hub, and the University of British Colombia.Click here for more information about the speakers.

For more information on the event, including the programme, and to register your attendance please follow this link.


Making heat visible: eViz featured in new blog post

common future

The work of the eViz team is featured in a new blog post on the ‘Our common future under climate change’ website.

From the blog:

“We found across several studies that thermal images of their own homes are really engaging to householders,” says Dr Pahl, Associate Professor in Psychology at the University of Plymouth who will be presenting at the Our Common Future Under Climate Change conference in Paris from 7-10 July.

“They’re very keen to have the images taken, they show great interest in the thermographer’s approach, they share the reports we send with others around them,” she says.  

“This is against a context of general disinterest in energy-saving communications. For example two per cent or less is a typical response rate to energy companies’ campaigns.

“In our research we’ve found evidence that householders who received a thermal imaging report had lower energy bills a year later and had done more energy-saving actions such as draught-proofing.”

For the full blog go to the Our Common Future website.

This conference will be the largest forum for the scientific community to come together ahead of the 21st UNFCCC Conference of the Parties (COP21).