Undergraduate Honors Thesis


Reducing Energy Waste via Occupant Behavior: The Role of the Individual in Climate Change Solutions Public Deposited

  • This study aims to achieve energy waste reductions via the rewiring of human habits as opposed to using technology. In public spaces like university campuses, individuals often remove themselves from the energy conservation equation, viewing energy use as the responsibility of the organization. This attitude plays a part in the high levels of wasted light that are common in these public settings. By studying the ways in which human behavior can be altered, this thesis attempts to identify origins of waste on the CU-Boulder campus while finding ways to reduce such waste with minimal financial investment. In the first part of this thesis, I conducted a literature review to determine which strategies have had noteworthy success in reducing energy waste by targeting occupant behavior. This review revealed that the most effective strategies that rely on occupants incorporate (1) monitoring and energy-use feedback, (2) the establishment of social norms, (3) education and informative interventions, and (4) the manipulation of design elements. Upon identifying these four primary strategies, the second part of the thesis reveals how they are implemented on the CU campus and whether they have been successful. I found that our campus has energy conservation initiatives in place rooted in all of the listed strategies, yet recorded waste was still high, notably in public restrooms. Though it is encouraging that existing interventions are in place to target energy waste on campus, this study highlights the limitations of such initiatives. I made use of light/occupancy loggers to see how energy waste was impacted by multiple sign designs posted around campus, and found that none of these held a significant impact on occupant behavior. In addition, I found that most energy waste from lights occurs after business hours, when such interventions are obsolete. These results suggest that to target the bulk of energy waste, strategies implemented on campus should prioritize after-hours waste. Even so, energy conservation during business hours need also be tailored to more effectively influence university occupants if the campus is to achieve zero-waste goals. That said, targeting occupant behavior at CU would require new, more extensive, inclusive, and creative strategies, as recommended at the end of this paper.
Date Awarded
  • 2019-01-01
Academic Affiliation
Committee Member
Granting Institution
Last Modified
  • 2019-12-02
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