Saturday, May 7, 2011

New Building Occupant Behavior Opportunities

An interesting bit of news on the Boston behavior change front: the Boston Redevelopment Authority is interested in pursuing behavior change technologies in two new college dormitories being built in Boston. Berklee College of Music and Boston College are both building new dorms to accommodate their burgeoning student bodies, and Gerald Autler, urban planner and senior project manager at the Boston Redevelopment Authority, wants to design the dormitories with occupant feedback systems in mind from the onset.

I have to applaud his approach. At MIT we were limited in the sense that we had to work with the building infrastructure we were stuck with, but if you can work in occupant feedback systems from the onset, you can make a significantly greater impact. My primary idea was to submeter the electrical systems keeping in mind the way students would socialize, so that any energy monitoring hardware added afterward would reflect the energy usage of a given social unit, rather than an arbitrary group of students. Typically electrical submetering is done just as a matter of convenience: a 3-story building with 2 wings may be submetered at the wings, grouping all three floors together. This isn't ideal, as it's more likely that students would socialize with the other students who share their hallway, rather than those directly above or below them. Submetering to the level of social aggregation makes conservation messaging a lot more effective. 

If I can pull through on the MIT-NSTAR Efficiency Forward campaign's behavior change program, it may be interesting to do some intercollegiate behavior change competitions between MIT, BU, and MIT.  

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