The central ambition of the project was to increase the number of people who could be engaged in carbon-saving behaviours while reducing the cost, creating engagement at large scale. The technical architecture is critical for achieving this, and was already largely designed as the CarbonCulture Platform. During CarbonCulture at DECC, we developed the platform further on the basis of user research at DECC.

Cost of scale was a critical design consideration. The pilot only ran in one building to test the concept, yet we considered in every design decision how delivery cost would be impacted if the platform and tools are deployed in tens of thousands of buildings. Therefore, the technical architecture was designed to make use of resources that are typically already available in workplaces — the computers people use for their work, the display screens that are often placed in lobbies and cafeterias and the phones many people carry in their pockets. It was also designed to make minimal use of additional resources, such as consultants visiting each building and expensive special-purpose technology.

At the centre of the technical architecture is the collection and processing of empirical sustainability performance information. The intent is to collect data from every site in which a campaign runs, allowing it to be adjusted ‘in-flight’. Data is collected directly from the gas and electricity meters in the building, processed and aggregated in real time to become public carbon reporting almost instantaneously, with about five seconds delay ‘from basement to browser’.

While accepting this very high quality data, the platform also works with the half-hourly data available from metering now being deployed across the UK (as a result of the CRC Energy Efficiency Scheme and L2 building regulations), or even with irregular data from manual reads.

We also collected information about how people use CarbonCulture itself, how often they log in and how often they take particular actions and make particular claims (for example, how often someone claims that they cycle into work).

This data drives interfaces that are made available to users through a set of ‘touchpoints’ that have been very carefully designed to be as engaging as they can possibly be, while being cost-effectively deployable at large scale across large estates. This means using digital distribution. The architecture allows for a few different touchpoints, some for use at people’s desks, some in lobbies and coffee areas and some for use when people are out-and-about, or at home. By letting users log in and presenting each user with their own unique view onto the platform, we found we could tailor the experience to each user, without the costs that are normally involved in delivering customised engagement.

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