In order to get the best out of energy saving products, those who use them must fully buy in to them. In the workplace, this means there is a huge need to work on engaging staff with energy saving measures.
The stakeholders within a commercial building are wide ranging: the owners or lease holders, the building manager and facilities team, the engineers responsible for installation and maintenance, through to those which use the building on an ongoing basis, the staff, students, patients or residents.
Although these groups may on the whole agree that implementing energy saving initiatives is a positive move and will bring benefits, their motivations vary widely. For example (and with sweeping generalisation), on the decision making side, the owner may prioritise capital and payback, where as the building manager and facilities team think about simplifying systems and minimising user complaints. On the receiving end, the engineering team would welcome reduced maintenance requirements, but may not appreciate having to learn the complexities of the new technology. Building users may fear that a new automatic system would remove control and impact on their comfort – a better the devil you know feeling.
The barriers to user engagement
When implementing a new heating or lighting system, the main barriers to change we have found are:
■ Physical: Legacy issues with the system may dilute the benefits and cause an initial negative reaction, which is then harder to amend.
■ Understanding: Lack of understanding of the technology and it’s benefits on application.
■ Habit: Existing habits may be prohibitive, how to discourage these (e.g. consuming more energy by using space heaters or fans to regulate temperature).
■ Personal: Individual issues and perception of temperature or light.
We need to consider what motivates people to move along the path from knowing nothing about, or actively rejecting a new technology, to acceptance and embracing the change.
Winning over hearts & minds
Changing established mindset and behaviour is notoriously tricky and can take time. From a supplier side, care must be taken to assess the views of all stakeholders. The solution and it’s communication must be tailored to address needs and negate issues. Value can be added by helping end users understand the new technology, the benefits it can bring and by encouraging correct use.
Change is not purely due to a new system, change is because people choose to adapt. At Chalmor, we have a partnership philosophy, working closely with customers to gain insight into building use, working patterns and performance requirements. We aim to provide solutions that capitalise on the environment and suit commercial priorities.
A Chalmor case study:
We worked with a leading University to develop a student engagement package to assist the implementation of our award winning eTRV+ smart radiator valve.
There were concerns that a change in the heating system would lead to complaints about rooms feeling too cool (the buildings had previously been overheated). To avoid a shock, eTRV+ temperature had been set high – but this would need to be proved. Additionally, students were used to having control of their TRV’s, which meant twisting to adjust the heating, which would break eTRV+.
Then came the fun bit! Thinking of a solution that would catch the student’s attention, something they would remember, or could keep close at hand as a reminder. Something that fits with their behaviour, that could be used and then could hang around, discretely in their room.
■ Thermometer cards: Temperature strips show the temperature, proving that the heating is set correctly. Small and discrete, to be pinned to a notice board, or taped to the desk. Includes a diagram to show how not to twist, but to push the button to boost the temperature.
■ Video: A one minute video explaining the new system, how it saves energy and how it works.
The feedback was positive, deemed a success. We loved the process, a merchandisers dream – we looked into so many ‘studenty’ means to convey our message, from beer mats to trolley key rings and mobile phone docks! We are now preparing a suite of communications tools to offer as standard – what else would you like to see to help us communicate eTRV+ to your building users? We’d love to hear your ideas – please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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