Energy Efficiency Research

sedac staffAn applied research program at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, SEDAC draws from the expertise of University of Illinois faculty, staff, and students to conduct cutting-edge research on energy efficiency and sustainability. Leveraging relationships with current and former program participants, SEDAC conducts scholarship to expand understanding of effective strategies to improve energy efficiency in buildings. Research is conducted in close consultation with community partners, addressing questions that have emerged from SEDAC's energy efficiency project experience. 

Research articles by SEDAC staff and students have been published in academic journals and shared at conferences across the country. See our research library for links to the articles we've published and explore a few of our research highlights below. 

Energy Dashboards

energy dashboardOur research question: Do energy information dashboards and energy behavior campaigns reduce energy consumption and change occupant behaviors and attitudes?

What we did: We implemented energy dashboards in four buildings on four different community college campuses and implemented a six-week energy behavior change campaign at these colleges. We measured energy consumption before and after the intervention, interviewed building managers, and surveyed students, faculty and staff before and after the intervention. 

The good news: These two interventions did result in significant energy savings (7-10% decrease in electricity and 50% decrease in natural gas). Interviews with building managers indicated that energy dashboards improved their ability to detect system faults and implement energy-saving adjustments.

The not-so-good news: There were no significant differences in attitudes and behaviors for students, faculty, and staff before and after the intervention.

The take-away: Energy dashboards can be effective at improving facility management approaches and saving energy, but they may be less useful at influencing occupant attitudes and behaviors.

Timm, S. N., & Deal, B. M. (2016). Effective or ephemeral? The role of energy information dashboards in changing occupant energy behaviors. Energy Research and Social Science, 19, 11-20.

The Human Side of Retro-Commissioning (RCx)

inspectingOur research question: It's easy to assume that RCx is a strictly technical exercise, optimizing the energy performance of the built environment. But occupants, operators, staff and administrators introduce human error and variability. How are people part of the energy system, and how can they be part of the solution? What are the human challenges to achieving savings through RCx? 

What we did: We reflected on our field experiences to come up with a list of challenges and a series of recommendations to address this human component.

Human challenges to RCx efforts: 

  • Building stakeholders may have competing motivations for their actions
  • They operate with incomplete information
  • They communicate less than perfectly
  • They do not have routine procedures in place to retain savings.

Recommendations to address the human component of RCx:

  • Establish a broad spectrum team
  • Discuss objectives and priorities
  • Build relationships
  • Facilitate communications
  • Assist with establishing new behaviors

Westervelt, E. (2014, 19-21 May). The Human Side of Retro-Commissioning. Paper presented at the National Conference on Building Commissioning.