Design Stages

Design Stages

1.Opportunities: The postcards and arrows helped to find local carbon saving activities ; 2. Workshop 1: From 16 opportunities 4 activities were developed; 3. Prototypes: The 4 workshop outcomes were developed into testable prototypes; 4. Workshop 2: Results were presented and the final set of activities decided.

To have effective user engagement, we first had to introduce ourselves and introduce the conversation that we wanted to have. The conversation needed to engage the whole building, gradually refining the number of participants and depth of enquiry as further levels of user engagement were pursued.

Each stage of the design process was flexible so that responses from people in the building shaped the next step, allowing each tranche of the deployment to be tailored for the community, through input from the community.

The first stage was to help users to understand and visualise their collective energy consumption and carbon emissions. This was done through Real Time Energy Displays, as discussed in previous sections. While this real time feedback showed what was actually being used, it was also important to find out how people thought they were using the energy, and where they thought energy could be saved. To gather this information we ran a series of interactions with DECC staff, led by the CarbonCulture team, which are detailed below.


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For highest visibility, and to engage the greatest number of DECC staff, we created an event in the lobby of 3-8 Whitehall Place, asking staff to complete a CarbonCulture postcard with their questions, comments, ideas and pledges on energy issues at their work.

The Postcards were handwritten, giving a sense of community and the feeling that people’s opinions mattered to the process. Seeing a growing number of completed postcards on the wall, handwritten by their peers, may have encouraged passing staff to investigate, and to fill out their own.

The postcards process helped to present us as an external group, distinct from DECC ‘management’. Dolan, P. et al. (2010) MINDSPACE: Influencing behaviour through public policy. Institute for Government. LondonThe ‘messenger’ is hugely important in delivering behaviour change, particularly allowing DECC staff to contribute their ideas in confidence and take ownership over the process as building users, outside of normal building management decisions.

At the same time as empowering users to anonymously raise their issues, Ibidbehavioural economists have found that this process of publicly stating their ideas may embed further ‘commitment’ in the users.

The postcards provided both quantitative information, telling us how many people wanted to address each issue, and qualitative information in the comments, which fed into designing tools and solutions.


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Arrow highlighting draughty window

The second stage of this valuable user input was to put a spatial narrative on the issues raised in the postcards. This was achieved by asking DECC staff to place highly visible arrows identifying specific issues in the areas of the building where the issues were. This annotated the building, and moved from theoretical conversations to the physical labelling of the space. This was started with a quick walk-through of the building, handing out arrows to users for them to personalise with handwritten comments on the energy issues that most concerned them, to place in the spaces where the issues were most prominent.

For example, staff pinned up arrows highlighting that the three lifts in DECC were controlled by two separate circuits, with two buttons on each floor. People were in the habit of pressing both buttons to try to get a lift quickly, meaning that both sets of lifts would respond, wastefully moving two lifts rather than only the closest lift moving.

As well as providing us with valuable information about the issues that people wanted to address, the arrows encouraged in-depth conversations with DECC staff, which is important when the solutions designed are to be centred around these users.


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Analysis of Postcards and Arrows


DECC’s Postcard wall garnered over 300 individual contributions from the building, including Directors General and Ministers. Other Government departments that have tried to engage users through ‘pledge walls’ experienced much lower response rates, ranging from 10 to 100 pledges. We believe that a combination of well designed user interactions facilitated the higher engagement at DECC.

Analysis of the Postcards and Arrows tools heavily influenced the design of future stages and tools. One key observation was a high frequency of accusatory statements between individual staff, as well as between building users and the Sustainability and Estates team. With declarative, such as “they won’t let us open the windows”, rather than collaborative statements, such as “are we as a staff eating a balanced diet at lunch?” appearing more frequently. This reinforced the need to build empathy between all building users in order to build trust and encourage the mindset needed to move the process forward and save energy.

We sought to address this barrier by introducing the Sustainability and Estates team to DECC staff via the blog, as well as highlighting all the important work that DECC had already completed to address energy use in 3-8 Whitehall Place.


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Stage One Workshop


With the information gained through Postcards and Arrows, as well as industry and academic research, participatory design sessions were carried out by the CarbonCulture design team. These were attended by a wide array of DECC staff, ranging from security staff through to Senior Civil Servants, who were given an introduction to behaviour change, briefed on the aims of the project and presented with the key findings that arose from the postcards and arrows.

As well as the long list of inputs from building users, we used energy consumption figures provided by the Sustainability and Estates team to examine which areas of focus had the potential to yield carbon savings, as well as to be practicable in encouraging user engagement. This information was then used to seed the workshop discussion with the different challenges and barriers that would come with approaching certain areas of focus.

Participants worked in groups to develop ideas for interventions that would tackle specific areas of consumption in 3-8 Whitehall Place. Working as a team decreased the tendency of declarative or blaming approaches, and developed collaborative efforts. The groups came up with a series of ideas that fed into the next design stage of prototyping and testing responses with the wider community.

Stage One Workshop produced four key ideas and concepts


Sometimes it is unclear what to bring with you to meetings and whether you need to dress formally, or if more comfortable clothing is acceptable. E-meet is an organisational tool to inform you about the type of meeting you are attending; e.g. a formal meeting, no need to print out documents, etc. The aim of E-meet is to reduce paper use in meetings and encourage staff to wear appropriate clothing in an office with variable temperatures, while maintaining the professional image of DECC.

The choice of clothing can affect energy use through people wearing suits and ties on hot and stuffy days, and then having to open windows to cool down, thus disrupting the building’s air conditioning. Equally, in the colder months, if staff know it is appropriate to wear a warm top over their shirt, they will not have to turn the heating up.

After Work Club (which became Scrunch)

Employees working late are given the option of moving to a designated space on one floor where they will find healthy food treats to boost productivity for the final part of their day. Other floors that are empty can then be switched off to save energy and cut carbon emissions. This can also be implemented at weekends and during holidays.

Monitor Pa-Troll

Many people leave their monitors on when they are away from their desk or at lunch. During the day, when monitors are left on standby mode for a significant period of time, Monitor Pa-Troll would alert others nearby to switch off the screen in question through visual and noise prompts. Monitor Pa-Troll could also involve a playful disincentive for people who leave their screens on, such as a troll being placed on their desk to make them aware that they left their screen on.


The thermal comfort (how warm or cold a person is) of the occupants of a building greatly affects how they interact with the heating and cooling controls (thermostats) and the building envelope (opening and closing windows and doors). Some people are too hot, others are too cold, and they could be working right next to each other. The participants in the workshop wanted CarbonCulture at DECC to look into further research around thermal comfort, to explore what can be done. Could all the people who find the building too hot sit together in one area of the building, and all the people who find it too cold sit in another? Rather than prototyping a tool that could address this issue, the conclusion from the workshop was that the CarbonCulture team could prototype some research tools to better understand the influences on thermal comfort.


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We analysed the ideas emerging from the workshops to identify the potential for carbon savings, user engagement, and whether the ideas were deliverable according to the scope of the pilot. We then took the ideas that fulfilled these criteria, worked them up into prototypes (paper or web mock-ups), and tested them with defined groups and/or representatives of the community.

One of the ideas from Workshop One, “E-meet”, did not meet the criteria, giving us three potential interventions to work with. We therefore re-introduced the idea of a lunchtime intervention around eating more healthily, and eating less meat, an idea originating from the Postcard process.

These four potential interventions were then tested using a combination of paper prototyping, play testing, user journey walk-throughs and online usability testing.

These prototypes helped the CarbonCulture team, and the testers, to further understand the barriers and opportunities surrounding each carbon saving intervention, and to determine which would be carried through to the Stage Two Workshop.

After a prototype of an intervention around computer use, the user engagement aspect was successful; however, the potential energy savings were lower than projected during the Stage One Workshop.


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Thermal Comfort: A Hot Topic


Due to the nature of the building, we anticipated from the start that thermal comfort, or lack of it, would be an issue that building users would want to address. However, it was also recognised early on by all parties that it would be difficult to bring about satisfactory change in this area.

Early stages of user interaction confirmed that thermal comfort was indeed an issue for DECC staff. Some staff felt that not enough was being done by the Sustainability and Estates team and Facilities Management to maintain thermal comfort. This perhaps stemmed from a feeling of not having control over the temperature in the area they were working in (see mental models in previous sections) as building users were not allowed to open certain windows, or to alter thermostats. Some even felt that carbon reduction was being pursued at their expense.

This made thermal comfort a prime candidate for an intervention and it was introduced to the Stage One Workshop. Participants in the Workshop suggested using DECC staff as ‘wet’ thermometers, to see if they could calibrate their thermal comfort to the temperatures being read by the ‘dry’ sensors in the ceilings.

We prototyped a number of ‘human thermometer tests’ across the building, where users were asked to visualise how they were feeling. This led to a more sophisticated online based prototype tested by 18 participants.

This test explored the emotive aspect of thermal comfort, where we used behavioural change theory to address ‘comfort’ rather than actual temperature.

The prototype sought to test the usability of online mechanisms to record user input, and to record any change in individuals’ comfort levels when they are shown the stated comfort levels of their colleagues.

One group of participants were asked to chart their level of thermal comfort at three times throughout the day. These readings were then given to the second group of participants before they stated their own levels of thermal comfort.

This was carried out with a small group of DECC staff and produced valuable insights. The online mechanisms were successful, and some users found the interaction both useful and informative; however, the scale of the prototype was not large enough to produce any statistical confirmation of this theory. Our academic partners in the Empower team at Brunel and Warwick universities have used the learnings from this prototype to inform more in-depth studies, in order to deliver a larger scale trial.

This prototype led to feedback that users felt listened to, and the feeling of a lack of control over the building temperature lessened. This was reciprocated with buy-in from users, who asked for opportunities to continue the prototype, and to run it again in colder months to get more detailed information.

Some users also fed-back that they were recording their temperatures using pen and paper even when they could not use the tool, further demonstrating that this was a real issue for staff at 3-8 Whitehall Place, and that they would undertake actions on this even when not prompted.

User Feedback After Using the Prototype — Thermopeople

“it was nice to think that someone cared how I was feeling”

“I enjoyed using the tool”

“I would keep using this tool”


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Stage Two Workshop


The outcomes of the Prototypes were brought to a second Workshop in order to further explore the barriers identified, with particular focus on the idea of an after hours club, now named Scrunch. This focus was driven by a number of large barriers identified by the CarbonCulture team, with the aim of allowing the CarbonCulture team to leave with a final idea for Scrunch that had user approval.

The workshop participants were reminded of the outcomes of the first Workshop, and were introduced to each of the prototypes. The Workshop was split into two groups, with some participants conducting a desk-based focus group. At the same time, others were walked through a Scrunch demonstration, discussing the barriers and the options to approach these. The participants gave a clear indication that Scrunch would have some substantial challenges in attracting uptake, but was still worth pursuing for the large potential benefits.


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