The research project ‘Saving energy when others pay the bill’, has recently joined the Amsterdam Institute for Advanced Metropolitan Solutions. This project offers the unique opportunity to assess the effectiveness of experimental interventions of individual energy and water use. The unique setting has high scientific potential and is expected to lead to new theoretical insights.
In this research project, the research team led by Michel Handgraaf is conducting a series of field experiments, in which they implement several behavioral interventions to study the potentially positive effects of non-financial incentives and technological innovations on energy saving behavior. In order to do so, a ‘living lab’ has been established at three locations of The Student Hotel (in Rotterdam, The Hague and Amsterdam), where electricity and water meters have been installed by project partner Bectro Installatietechniek in about 250 rooms. Presence and in-room thermostat settings are also monitored. This ‘living lab’ allows the researchers to relate objective data on energy and water usage to the effectiveness of interventions and to surveys participants are asked to fill out before and after the interventions.
This project offers the unique opportunity to assess the effectiveness of experimental interventions in terms of participant’s individual energy and water use, but also link behavior to their environmental attitudes, self-reported behaviors, demographic characteristics, etc. Moreover, both the long-term and the short-term effectiveness of interventions can be assessed with students who stay in the hotel for six to twelve months and hotel guests who only stay for a few nights. Furthermore, as students are obliged to move out after one year, and hotel guests only stay for a short period of time, there is a constant flow of new participants, who have no prior knowledge of previous research.
Within this research project, a high volume of valuable data is obtained. ‘Besides learning about the effect of our experimental manipulations, we can learn a lot about the behavior of the students and hotel guests staying at The Student Hotel. For instance: How often do they use the shower? And for how long? And how many hours are they present in their room?’ says Michel Handgraaf. ‘Furthermore, we can relate these outcomes to the survey data. This means we can answer questions like: Do men or women shower longer? And how do people with different nationalities differ from each other? But also: How do people feel about climate change? Do our interventions change these attitudes? And how do people’s values influence their behavior? These and many more questions can be answered using the objective data from the individual rooms that we obtain with our water and electricity meters, in combination with our survey data.’
Joining AMS Institute
AMS Institute offers an extensive network with researchers from all kinds of disciplines who are trying to find sustainable solutions for metropolitan issues. Joining AMS Institute therefore provides the possibility to collaborate with other research groups and other partners, and also many opportunities for expanding the research efforts with new studies on energy saving and other pro-environmental behavior. Some of the future ideas include testing new sustainable technologies in the living lab, or test the effectiveness of interventions in different situations where people do not directly pay for their energy bill, such as public spaces, schools, at work or in elderly homes.