Changing User Habits

At the beginning of the year I bought a new plug-in hybrid, Ford C-Max Energie. I come from a family of car lovers, my husband collects vintage sports-cars and my son is a former race car mechanic-gasoline runs in their veins. Tired of driving my husband's Mustang and feeling like I wasn't walking the walk, I dove into the purchase of a plug-in hybrid. My purchase was met with much skepticism in the family.....I am used to driving fast...always five minutes behind, I use the pedal to the metal technique rather than being more prudent and planning my time better. I have to say that I have been transformed by driving my new car! While I am still usually five minutes late I have completely changed my driving technique. There are a series of screens that rate the driving and the performance as you drive and of the trip you just made. It has taken me a few months to adjust to a new way of driving, braking and coasting, but that car has reshaped 35 years of driving habits in a few months. My mileage is averaging around 60-70 mpg. The more amazing part is that it has had the same hypnotic effect on my son. He is always bugging me to borrow my car on the weekends! This is a kid who knows the make and model of almost any car and who longed to be a racecar driver when he was young...he wants my C-max Energie!

Ford has really done a great job of designing the computer screen interfaces that train the driver to drive differently. So why can't we change occupant behavior in buildings? A friend of my partner Michael who lives in Africa tells us that where he lives, each family purchases a prepaid card that they then take back to their house and plug into the meter to purchase energy. That single change would alter energy consumption for users. If you had a budget of energy to spend each month, greater awareness would almost certainly follow. If we develop meters that were associated with equipment we might realize that our Cimbali machine, our waffle iron and our hair dryer all use a lot of energy. Perhaps well designed monitoring systems might engage us to be more aware of our usage and engage us to change our behavior. We might even begin to shut off all unnecessary appliances that continue to draw power when we are not there. When you reach Passive House levels, your energy usage for heating and cooling is radically diminished, the next frontier is plug-loads. Perhaps we can learn something from my Ford!