tisdag 8 november 2016

ICT support for collective energy management in housing cooperatives (paper)

We submitted an abstract to "Energy for Society: 1st International Conference on Energy Research and Social Science" at the end of last week. The proposed paper is called "ICT support for collective energy management in housing cooperatives" and it's written by Hanna Hasselqvist (first author), me, Cristian Bogdan and Isaac Rondon.

Here's the background: I was Isaac's advisor when he wrote his master's thesis during the past spring. Isaac thesis was presented only a month ago and it's called "Eco-visualization for amateur energy work: Supporting energy management in Housing Cooperatives" (see the thesis abstract below). Isaac wrote his thesis within a large pan-European research project about design of more sustainable and energy oriented smart cities, CIVIS. The principal of his thesis (Swedish: "uppdragsgivare") was this research project and more specifically my colleague and next door neighbor Hanna Hasselqvist. Her fellow CIVIS researcher (and ph.d. thesis advisor) Cristi is also a co-author of this paper.

Hanna and me did most of the work on putting together an outline for the paper and then, based on that outline, generating the abstract below, but it also partly draws on Isaac's thesis and we expect the two co-authors to pull some weight when the actual process of writing the paper starts. If the abstract/proposed paper is accepted for presentation at the conference (which goes without mentioning).

ICT support for collective energy management in housing cooperatives

Authors: Hanna Hasselqvist, Daniel Pargman, Cristian Bogdan, Isaac. Rondon

Track: #2 - Energy Consumption and Behaviour

Keywords: Information and communication technologies, Eco­feedback, Amateur energy mangement, Housing cooperatives

Abstract: Energy feedback technologies for reducing or shifting domestic energy consumption are a central concern in research on energy use and energy behaviours. Such technologies are almost exclusively targeted at individual users or at households (DiSalvo et.al. 2010, Dourish 2010, Brynjarsdottir 2012). There are however domestic energy contexts where various factors limit what individuals or households can do in order to influence their energy use (Dillahunt et. al. 2010, Mose Entwistle et. al. 2015).

We have studied energy management in housing cooperatives, a common form of housing in the Nordic countries, where the household energy consumption (heating, hot water and electricity use) depends on collective decisions that affect all the housing cooperative members (from only a few up to hundreds of households). Since the members generally lack deep expertise about energy, it is often challenging for cooperatives to manage their building(s) and to make energy­related decisions (Hauge et. al. 2014). Housing cooperatives annually elect a board among its members and in our work we have seen that it is common for the boards to appoint someone to be in charge of energy issues. We refer to this role as “amateur energy manager”.

To support the work of amateur energy managers, we have developed a software platform for exploring the own cooperative’s energy use in relation to that of other cooperatives and for knowledge exchange between cooperatives. The end goal is to directly support amateur energy managers (or the board) in making decisions that reduce the energy use of their housing cooperative, or that increase their production of renewable energy.

We here present and discuss the design of the software platform, in relation to the challenges of amateur energy management and collective energy decisionmaking, together with the results from nine interviews with amateur energy managers who have tried the tool.

---------- Isaac's thesis abstract ---------- 

Eco-visualization for energy amateur work – Supporting energy management in housing cooperatives 

Eco-visualization technologies aim to trigger more environmental behaviors by providing feedback about the usage of key resources such as energy. However, the design of these technologies to encourage energy conservation has been mainly focused on individual behaviors in a household level. Addressing a different approach researchers at KTH have designed the housing cooperative app, a web application that provides feedback about the collective energy consumption of housing cooperatives in Stockholm, aiming to reduce the cooperative's collective energy use.

By using a Research Through Design approach, this thesis explores how data visualization can support amateur energy work through the housing cooperative app. For this, I identified design problems in the data visualization elements of the app, which I aimed to solve by redesigning them; then, I conducted semi structured interviews with amateur energy workers, where they interacted with the application, to generate new insights about how data visualization can be used in an amateur work context.

Through the interviews it was possible to obtain qualitative answers about the challenges of amateurs energy workers and the way data visualization could be used to address theses challenges and achieve their goals in an efficient way. The interviews was divided in Background, Amateur work, Comprehension and Usefulness of the data, and were supported by a walkthrough in the application presenting to users different scenarios and features in the application.

Results showed the potential that data visualizations have to support amateur energy workers to overcome their main challenges and to identify the rewards of their work. In this thesis I discuss about this potential, and about design aspects that are important to consider when designing eco-visualization technologies in amateur energy context..

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