Cogent Computing: Empowering Occupants to Reduce Energy Consumption

Monday 27th of January 2014 12:00 AM

The energy performance of buildings is affected in important ways by the people who live in them.

This should not be underestimated: studies show that occupant behaviour can account for variation of up to 300% in energy usage in identical properties.

Understanding behaviour will not only help realise energy savings; but will support residents in making the most of their homes.


The Problem

Climate change is now recognised to be related to energy consumption, and associated CO2 emissions. Buildings consume significant amounts of energy.

To reduce emissions and ameliorate climate change, it is important to find ways of decreasing energy use in buildings. But this is not only to do with fabric and systems, it is also about occupant behaviour.

We need to understand the factors which influence energy consumption in homes due to occupant behaviour. This can inform effective interventions to bring about behaviour change and reduce energy use and emissions, as well as saving occupants money.

Building on a strong partnership which has been well-established for some years, Orbit Heart of England Housing Association is working with Coventry University’s Cogent Computing Applied Research Centre to understand the behaviour of tenants, in order to develop solutions which contribute effectively to behaviour change.


The Approach and Solution

It is widely recognised that generic, ‘one-size-fits-all’ interventions in the form of advice sites and leaflets do not change behaviour unless there is strong prior motivation. Equally, educational interventions of various types have had limited impact. As such, Cogent Computing and Orbit Heart of England propose an alternative form of solution, based on occupant profiling and targeted interventions over time.

Cogent-Orbit POE (post occupancy evaluation) is about understanding the performance of buildings once they have been occupied.

It has two arms: (1) continuous monitoring, through sensor technology, to measure emissions, energy consumption, and other parameters; and (2) a novel occupant behaviour survey and engagement package called MAKE. These are carried out simultaneously over a number of years.

While monitoring measures energy consumption and emissions, MAKE identifies the contribution of occupant behaviour. MAKE administers occupant surveys which score levels of motivation, awareness, knowledge and efficacy (hence the acronym MAKE). The appropriate educational interventions are then made every few months, based on the set of scores (called the MAKE profile).

MAKE is innovative in its ability to generate occupant empowerment initiatives as a direct outcome of occupant profiling linked to a longitudinal approach. The effectiveness of the interventions is assessed over time through further rounds of monitoring and surveying, which look for changes in measured performance of the building, together with changes in the MAKE profile.


The Benefits

This approach uses sensing equipment to output quantitative data relating to occupant behaviour, which is complemented with qualitative techniques.

Together with the method of occupant profiling as a driver for individual behaviour change interventions, and the longitudinal approach to behaviour change assessment, the project helps advance the science of behaviour change for sustainable living.

The surveying techniques are simple to administer and analyse, whilst the monitoring system is low-cost, tamper-proof and easily deployable. The project provides Orbit Heart of England with a complete methodology for evaluating the post-occupancy performance of its properties.


To discuss how we can work with you, please contact Dr John Halloran, Cogent Computing Applied Research Centre:



Category: Innovation