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Lighting Controls: How Occupant Behavior Impacts Building Energy Use and ZNE

With Lisa Heschong and Clifton Stanley Lemon

The behavior of building occupants, facilities managers, and designers has a dramatic effect on overall energy efficiency of buildings but is rarely fully understood or taken into consideration when buildings are designed, built and operated. Powerful, intelligent building control technologies fail unless people use them to their full capability. Research on building performance in recent years has placed greater emphasis on the need to better understand behavioral factors, including defaults, organizational culture, peer pressure, risk aversion, and nudges.  This research has resulted in strategies and programs that positively modify behavior around energy use in buildings. 

To fully leverage the potential of behavior-based energy programs, we must not only identify successful programs, but also understand the characteristics, or “building blocks”, that make up these programs and contribute to their success.
The “design” process of behavioral program development is fundamentally different than engineering specification. And recent experience of program developers shows that the most effective changes are most likely to come at the local and regional level, where buildings are built, not at the national level, where policies are made. 

Controls can greatly impact efficiency when they give users more choices - a September 2017 report from Design Lights Consortium (DLC) indicates that advanced lighting controls alone account for an average 47% increase in energy savings, and these savings can be improved even further by better application of behavioral programs. Understanding the relative impact of technology-based and behavior-based strategies – and combinations of the two – is a key to market transformation to make high performing buildings commonplace. Ambitious sustainability goals, including California’s initiatives to achieve ZNE, will require pushing building performance to exemplary levels. This course will present and discuss demonstration projects, behavioral program design from PG&E and other organizations, and lessons from behavioral economics showing how behavior is now a powerful tool to help buildings achieve net zero energy performance as well as becoming healthier, more resilient, and more sustainable.