eViz uses innovative digital techniques to transform energy decisions and behaviour. People’s behaviour can cause energy use to be 30-40% higher than Building experts anticipate. Generally, people are keen on saving energy for financial as well as environmental motives. However, uncertainty remains about the exact benefits of installing energy-efficiency measures and changing household habits. Despite a long tradition of energy advice, energy efficiency measures remain pallid and unconvincing, removed from people’s day-to-day experiences. There is a gap between abstract, invisible energy flows and people’s desire to understand their energy use and become more energy efficient.

Our previous work has shown that visualising energy loss by means of thermal images led householders to install more energy-efficiency measures and reduced their energy bills when audited a year later, compared to a conventional energy audit (Goodhew et al., 2012). Building on this, the present research will take a major step forward by using novel digital data visualisation techniques to present intuitive, easily graspable representations of energy flows. Using our virtual reality and data visualisation expertise, we will produce sophisticated interactive 3D and 4D representations of energy flows. We will add and overlay scientific projections of future states to direct observations and employ a range of approaches including webcams, simulation, smartphones, and social media.

Energy flows will be visualised as a function of house type (e.g., detached), any retrofits undertaken (e.g., loft insulation) and occupant behaviour (e.g., opening windows). Visualisations will be developed with users to evaluate their intuitiveness and motivational properties. We will include interactive tailored visualisations as well as generic “walk-throughs” for domestic and public buildings. The Energy Saving Trust and other partners have agreed to disseminate visualisations through their web-site and dedicated events. The best visualisations will be used in field trials with our UK and International partners to evaluate financial and carbon savings over time. Social media will be exploited to engage a wider range of people with this information. We will evaluate which types of visualisations and data people are willing to share (and which attract most attention and debate in their social network) and examine how people use these to discuss and reduce energy use.

Our research programme will increase understanding of energy dynamics as a function of occupant behaviour and building characteristics. It will allow experts to make better predictions of energy efficiency and design buildings around human behaviour, and it will help occupants to change their habitual behaviour (e.g., opening windows) to reduce energy use as well as motivate them to take up offers of energy-efficiency measures (e.g., loft insulation). All of these together will contribute to energy demand reduction and help people take charge of their energy use to future-proof their buildings in the face of rising energy cost and climate change.

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