Occupant Empowerment: Creating a Culture of Sustainability with LEED
I hear people say it all the time: “Buildings don’t use energy, people do.” So then I ask myself: Why has the idea of engaging with building occupants fallen by the wayside?...Despite the fact that it’s one of the most cost-effective ways to minimize energy consumption and save money? I wish I could provide a simple answer to that question, but the reality is that influencing occupants to modify their behavior to meet the sustainability goals of a building and/or an organization is far from straightforward. It requires an understanding of the actions people perform and even more importantly, the motivation behind those actions. Sounds easy, right?
To address the impact occupants have on resource consumption in the built environment, USGBC recently released Pilot Credit 59: Occupant Engagement. Our goal is to help improve the performance of existing buildings by enabling energy efficient behaviors among building occupants. The credit encourages building owners and tenants to create a culture of sustainability and resource conservation for occupants in LEED-certified projects. Project teams are awarded for implementing innovative engagement mechanisms that empower occupants to become aware of and responsible for their own energy consumption.
Pilot Credit 59: Occupant Engagement requires two main components:
- Consumption feedback: Inform occupants about the actual energy consumption of the building and/or their workspace and provide a relevant comparison point
- Occupant empowerment: Implement and maintain an occupant engagement program that includes education, empowerment and feedback components
We would like project teams to establish performance goals and develop a way to effectively track the success of the occupant engagement program. Additionally, the requirements above are only intended to serve as a foundation for an occupant engagement program and are by no means meant to display a “one size fits all” approach.
Introducing this concept as a pilot credit allows us to leverage both project team and market feedback to directly inform whether the credit’s requirements are effective or if they should be modified to better accomplish the stated intent.
So, let’s hear from you. Have you recently implemented an occupant engagement program focused on energy efficiency? What strategies did you find effective? What barriers kept your program from achieving its goals?