Software Framework for Enabling Innovation in Behavior-based Energy Conservation in Commercial Buildings

EPA Contract Number: EPD14020
Title: Software Framework for Enabling Innovation in Behavior-based Energy Conservation in Commercial Buildings
Investigators: Shunturov, Vladislav
Small Business: Lucid Design Group, Inc.
EPA Contact: Manager, SBIR Program
Phase: I
Project Period: May 1, 2014 through April 30, 2015
Project Amount: $99,584
RFA: Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) - Phase I (2014) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) , SBIR - Green Buildings Materials and Systems

Description:

According to the Department of Energy, the built environment represents more than 70 percent of U.S. electrical load and 38 percent of greenhouse gas emissions. Electricity used by lighting, water heating, and heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) are projected to remain relatively flat by 2030, but miscellaneous electric loads (MELs) are projected to increase dramatically, from 18 percent of electricity in commercial buildings in 2001 to as much as 38 percent in 2035. New approaches to behavior-based energy efficiency in existing commercial buildings are necessary because occupants, rather than facility managers, will hold primary influence over the majority of electricity usage. Recent developments in psychology and sociology indicate that showing one's energy consumption relative to peers has significant potential to driving savings due to normative effects. In addition, emotional appeals that use animated characters to elicit empathy have been shown in early tests to significantly increase motivation to conserve resources. However, the cost to develop and test normative feedback and empathetic characters historically has been prohibitive, stifling innovation in this area. Reasons for stagnation include a lack of cost-effective ways to reach building occupants in commercial environments (websites require users to actively visit them to experience feedback, which is a significant barrier), and the manual, labor-intensive development of animated characters. Our team, comprised of original members of the Oberlin College P3 team, will develop novel software that (1) provides for rapid development of empathetic characters in minutes instead of weeks, and (2) links ambient low-earth orbit (LEOs) with a pre-existing energy data application programming interface (API) to encourage ongoing conservation behaviors by glowing certain colors in the user's immediate environment when energy usage is low (green) or high (red) compared to historical patterns. The resulting software, using the latest HTMLS standards and viewable on PCs, tablets and mobile devices, will enable rapid iterative improvements in character development and, by leveraging mass production of certain light-emitting diodes (LEDs), such as Blink and Philips Hue from the consumer electronics industry, dramatically reduce the cost of delivering normative feedback inside commercial offices.

Supplemental Keywords:

energy efficiency, conservation, software, empathetic character, electricity, LED, commercial building

Relevant Websites:

P3 Phase I: Developing and Assessing the Impact of a Socio-Technological Resource-Use Feedback System for Improving the Environmental Performance of Buildings and Institutions | Final Report
P3 Phase II:Developing and Assessing the Impact of a Socio-Technological Resource-Use Feedback System for Improving the Environmental Performance of Buildings and Institutions | Final Report

Progress and Final Reports:

  • Final Report
  • SBIR Phase II:

    Using Software and Internet of Things Technology to Drive Behavioral Energy Savings in Commercial Buildings Using Building Orbs