Using technology to support sustainable strategies within a community
Sustainability research about using Information and Communications Technologies (ICTs) to reduce household energy consumption has recently focused on two potential strategies: “smart homes” that rely on sensors and technological innovations to automatically reduce the energy load, and tools that seek to persuade users to change their behavior, such as by raising awareness of the amount of energy used.
We propose that there is another approach: support and encouragement of existing best practice within a community to spread it more widely. One such practice is household retrofitting: the installation of domestic environmental technologies (DETs) such as increased insulation, energy efficient boilers, or renewable energy that serve to permanently reduce energy use in a household. We have developed a smartphone application to be used in conjunction with retrofitting open-home events that assists organizers in tracking their event’s impact, whilst also helping users in the decision-making processes that surround retrofitting.
Called Greendoors, the app has been used "in the wild" at two eco open home events: Bristol Green Doors and Frome Open Homes. In addition to providing mapping capabilities and information about the energy efficiency measures at participating homes, it can be used to contact householders, create a shortlist of favourite houses, make notes, and get directions. QR codes are used in a novel way to collect information about retrofitting measures: users scan the codes of the measures they are interested in and are later emailed a personalised report containing pertinent information. This makes it easy for the user to follow up on retrofitting after the event.