The UK Government, and DECC in particular, has been leading by example on reducing energy consumption and carbon emissions through material changes and technical efficiency improvements. This has successfully led to a 13.8% reduction in carbon emissions across the whole Government Estate in one year.

With a range of building types and uses, this reduction is a combination of different levels of savings achievable in each building. DECC has been at the forefront of these emissions cuts, achieving a Ibid21.3% reduction in the one year target and over 40% savings since the creation of the Department.

For each of the buildings across Whitehall, and across the UK, there is a point at which the energy savings available from material and technological measures will naturally diminish as the new savings become more difficult, invasive, and correspondingly expensive. DECC recognised early on that new and innovative methods will play a vital role in achieving the next stage of energy savings across the Government Estate, an aggregate of Ibid25% by 2015.

This next level of potential carbon savings needs to address not only what people use, but also the way that they use it. If a building is efficient but the people in it waste energy, only part of the problem has been solved. High performance energy efficiency can drive significant reductions in carbon emissions, and is achievable through Hadi, M. & Halfhide, C. (2009). The move to low-carbon design: Are designers taking the needs of building users into account? A guide for building designers, operators, and users. BRE, Watford.complementing technological and material changes with social actions.

As work continues on large scale, long-term carbon reduction measures such as installing new and efficient technologies in UK homes and workplaces through the Green Deal and other schemes, using energy more efficiently sits alongside these efforts. Changing people’s behaviour is perhaps the greatest untapped opportunity for carbon saving across the UK economy.

The savings available from behaviour changes also have the potential to provide significant financial benefits but they are often seen as difficult, unpredictable and hard to quantify. This leads to relatively labour intensive approaches, and makes it difficult to develop cost-effective deployment. However, if further study and exploration of this field can address the Shui, B. (2012). Greening Workstyles: An analysis of energy behaviour programs in the workplace. ACEEE remaining unanswered questions, a catalyst may be found to start this process of cost-effective deployment, and these savings could be implemented at scale.

Workplaces provide an ideal opportunity to engage people and explore their attitudes and behaviours around energy and carbon in an environment that allows their impacts to be measured and understood.

In their role as leaders on tackling carbon emissions, DECC decided to use their own offices as a testbed to engage staff on these issues, and to explore the deployment of behaviour change tools. The pilot model was designed to allow the processes and outcomes to scale to many other buildings. It was a participatory, interdisciplinary design process which sought to bring out the knowledge of people from both organisations in order to maximise impact.

The agreed challenges for CarbonCulture at DECC were to:

  • Design and test behaviour change strategies at 3-8 Whitehall Place
  • Demonstrate staff engagement, and model carbon saving potential of strategies
  • Test the CarbonCulture platform which could be used to deploy games and utilities as tools to engage people in workplaces across the UK at low cost
  • Test how this approach can strengthen conventional behaviour change and play a part in furthering ‘best practices’

Behaviour change theory explains various influences that impact decision making, and these influences can be used as levers to try to encourage certain outcomes. These levers can be used in various combinations, each with varying levels of intensity. It is important that these are introduced incrementally, to draw people in without scaring them off with too dramatic a change. This theory greatly influenced how we approached this pilot stage.

The levers were introduced at a level that would attract an initial audience to test the delivery mechanisms and usability of the behaviour change tools. Following the pilot stage, we suggest that further levers could be introduced that could increase the user audience and level of interaction of existing users.

DECC’s leadership on piloting this approach provides a test case not just for saving energy in a single building, but also the tools through which this can be done — tools that if successful could impact the behaviour of millions of people.

Therefore while the aim of introducing behaviour change to DECC is ultimately to save carbon, the success metrics for the project focus on user engagement, which is the necessary first step to influence behaviour and deliver carbon savings.

We set an ambitious goal for user engagement at DECC of attracting 10% of building occupiers to voluntarily sign up to the programme, and 4% of the building occupiers to become regular users.

It is important to note that there may be an inherent bias in the results from this particular audience, as a proportion were already well informed of how to save energy and carbon and aware of the importance of doing so. This had advantages and disadvantages for the pilot, which we will explore later in the paper.

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