I know what you’ve been thinking: isn’t it ironic that so many eco-feedback tools designed to decrease energy use, also consume energy? Well, not given the actual definition of the term “ironic,” but it is interesting to note that our reliance on electricity in computer-based feedback leads to minor amounts of electricity being consumed in the pursuit of a reduction in energy consumption. But this isn’t always the case – behold the Tidy Street Project, by the folks at the CHANGE project.
This domestic energy monitoring project took place in Brighton, UK, and aimed to answer questions about the effect of the nature of energy usage feedback. You can learn all about the project by reading “The Pulse of Tidy Street: Measuring and Publicly Displaying Domestic Electricity Consumption” by Jon Bird and Yvonne Rogers while at the Pervasive Interaction Lab at The Open University.
The group undertook a careful consultation process with the community in order to develop a fitted and effective tool specifically for Tidy Street residents. In working with Brighton-based street artist Snub, they managed to create a large scale visualization of the street’s electricity usage using chalk spray on the surface of Tidy Street itself (see image to right).
For the first three weeks, the public display was updated on a daily basis and represented how the average electricity usage of the street compared to average levels in the city of Brighton. In order to measure each household’s electricity usage, participants were asked to read their meters each day, and submit this information to the project website, which also allowed participants to track their own consumption over time.
While during this three week period the average electricity usage on Tidy Street decreased by 15%, over the course of 6 months, only three participants continued with the daily energy observations. This suggests that fatigue with the process can have a negative long term impact on such eco-feedback projects. It would be interesting to know if the automation of the energy readings might have encouraged longer-term participation and energy reductions.
feature image by Betty Snake