ICT for sustainability: reflecting on the role of ICT to enhance communication and empowerment of building users




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Peer reviewed



ICT solutions within a Smart City environment are often hailed as the low carbon, efficient and low-cost solution – but is this sufficient? These solutions often neglect user behaviour and treat users as passive consumers or even obstacles. Energy related ICT behaviour change is also starting to appear more frequently at the forefront of policy agendas and research funding calls as a prime focus for reducing energy consumption and improving efficiency across all energy intensive sectors. Research shows that improving and widening user engagement has the potential to foster greater acceptance and impact. Recent research has focused on behaviour change towards more sustainable energy use, often involving users co-designing interventions. As such, ICT is a prominent tool, with its application including feedback tools, apps, interactive dashboards and gamification. Frequent barriers are user engagement with ICT tools, both initially and over the long term, with research consistently showing that users are hard to engage, face a complex array of competing demands and easily become disengaged with energy programs and interventions. This paper presents a summary of some of the common problems relating to user engagement with energy interventions faced by many research projects, as well as presenting findings from eTEACHER, an EU H2020 project, aimed at empowering energy end-users by enabling behaviour change via a set of ICT solutions. eTEACHER, aims to employ principles of user-involvement and engagement to enhance the design of an ICT-based tool promoting energy conservation in buildings. eTEACHER has applied the ‘Enabling Change’ framework as a novel approach to ensure user engagement and stakeholder involvement. Results and reflections are offered from eTEACHER’s implementation of the Enabling Change framework and the engagement of building users within the eTEACHER pilot buildings, surrounding the design and implementation of an ICT-based tool. Reflections are given throughout on rethinking how we engage with citizens and our success in identifying, engaging and eliciting feedback from building users. The real world issues and constraints are explored alongside, and opportunities are identified for improving energy efficiency using an evidence-based intervention design in practice and discusses how ICT can aid the empowerment of building users towards their own energy use.



ICT-based behaviour change, energy conservation, feedback, building communities, user engagement


Morton, A., Bull, R., Reeves, A. and Preston, S. (2019). ICT for sustainability: Reflecting on the role of ICT to enhance communication and empowerment of building users. ECEEE Summer Study 2019. Belambra Les Criques, France. 3-8 June 2019. Stockholm: ECEEE. pp. 855 - 864


Research Institute

Institute of Energy and Sustainable Development (IESD)