DECC's energy display

An effective way of joining up incomplete mental models of how energy is used in the workplace is to help staff to see their energy use as something tangible, easily accessible and something they can understand. To address this in 3-8 Whitehall Place, we took real time energy data (every 5 seconds) and presented this information in clear, highly visible displays on screens within the building, as well as online.

This was an important first step to frame the situation, and to prompt input from the user community. We designed the displays to use the power of real time feedback to engage and inform. The fact that they were so attractive to users let us bring an initial user community together, giving them a way to feel engaged and usefully contribute to the project.

These visualisations showed when energy consumption was high and low over daily, weekly and monthly periods, and we were able to explain some trends to users, as well as to enable staff to ask their own questions about their energy use.

We thought it was important to quantify this energy use in kilowatt hours (usage), carbon emissions and monetarily (how much it’s costing DECC). This allowed staff to see the impacts of their collective energy use and helped to explain the need to save energy, as well as identifying where individual actions may achieve real savings.

While this tool is an integral part of engaging building users in behaviour change around energy use, it can also be deployed as a separate tool, and has been introduced across other Government Departments including: the Cabinet Office, Department of Culture, Media and Sport, Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, HM Revenue and Customs, HM Treasury, and Number 10.

The tool provides facilities managers (in this instance, the DECC Sustainability and Estates team) with a friendly and accessible way to navigate the performance data within a building or estate, and to identify savings that can be made by using the building systems differently. In this way, it provides clarity for building users that building managers are doing all they can, and now it is up to them, as individual users, to contribute toward more savings!

These Real Time Energy Displays not only show visualisations of the energy being used, but also explain what uses the energy in the building — what uses a lot, and what uses just a little. They present a collection of simple facts about the building and how it uses energy to increase DECC staff’s awareness of these facts. Information displayed includes how the Sustainability and Estates teams have already made operational improvements, where they have been maximised, and where there is still scope for further improvement. This information is played out through infographic posters and blog posts.

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