Title: Co-designing field experiments with cities : promoting energy-saving showerheads
Authors : Seidl, Roman
Stauffacher, Michael
Tomic, Uros
Moser, Corinne
Blumer, Yann
Conference details: Human Dimensions of Environmental Risks: Behavioural Experiments, Field Experiments, Survey Research, ENRI 2017, Environmental Research Group, ETH Zurich, Monte Veritá, Ascona, Switzerland, 21–26 May 2017
Issue Date: 2017
License (according to publishing contract) : Licence according to publishing contract
Type of review: Not specified
Language : English
Subject (DDC) : 333.7: Land, recreational areas and energy
Abstract: Cities may serve as change agents to influence energy related behaviour of their citizens. Yet, currently the potential of energy sufficiency interventions by cities appears not fully realized. Although cities are initiating numerous interventions in the broad domain of energy relevant decisions, behaviours, and social practices, only few of them are rigorously analysed and evidence if the intervention works is scarce. Thus, learning from such experiments for other cities is hardly possible. At the same time, social scientists are keen to know if their theoretical or conceptual models actually work in practice. Yet they often lack the necessary resources (in financial and personnel terms), established contacts for cooperation and the expertise to test these ideas in a realistic setting. Thus, a combined and well-integrated effort of both cities and researchers would allow to jointly define, implement, analyse and interpret behavioural field experiments, as an example. That means, a transdisciplinary collaboration among cities and researchers is needed. We present one concrete example of such a transdisciplinary process comprising a co-designed field experiment implemented in the context of a project within the National Research Programme 71 “Managing Energy Consumption”. A transdisciplinary cooperation process was established with the city administration of a Swiss city. In several workshops and meetings ideas for potential interventions were discussed together with representatives of the city administration. Finally, a field experiment in a public swimming pool was jointly planned and designed. The swimming pool was recently refurbished and new, low flow shower heads have been installed to save water but also energy due to reduced use of warm water. Our study design included a campaign to inform the visitors about the performance of the new shower heads and thus raise awareness for the water-energy nexus, that is the link between warm water provision and energy. Simultaneously, public services of the city are conducting a promotion campaign, allowing citizens to purchase a low-flow shower head at a subsidized price. These two measures build a setting, where a combination of a ‘soft incentive’ – information campaign and direct experience of an energy-saving product – and a financial one (subsidized shower heads) can be examined with regard to its effect on acceptability and social diffusion of an energy-saving product. An experimental condition in the correlational design was added to test if social interaction about the campaign among members of established groups (such as a swimming club) is different (e.g., more intense) from interaction among individuals. Given that both individual users and members of swimming clubs visit the swimming pool, we are able to test if (i) members of groups such as swimming clubs interact more about the information campaign, share more intensely their experiences with the new shower heads and if (ii) more intense forms of interactions actually lead to changes in attitudes and/or willingness to buy a low flow shower head. The study took place from January to February 2017. So far N = 350 participants have filled in the questionnaire, administered outside the swimming pool and online for participants’ convenience. Two third of the respondents as well disclosed their name and address so that we can cross-check with the orders of subsidized shower heads. Full data analysis will follow and the results will be presented at the conference. The portrayed project transcends traditional accompanying research of an intervention, because it involves a co-design process between science and city administrations from the start to both shaping and planning the intervention as well as its scientific evaluation. This represents a learning process between science and practice, where both parties contribute their knowledge to implement and evaluate behavioural interventions. We discuss pros and cons of such participatory developed field experiments. For instance, the real world setting enables to test the applicability of theoretical approaches (here about social interaction and behavioural change). However, it becomes clear that specific constraints have to be considered. For instance, a full experimental design  is hard to achieve (i.e., a control group in a swimming pool without water saving shower heads).
Departement: School of Engineering
Publication type: Conference Other
URI: https://digitalcollection.zhaw.ch/handle/11475/2134
Appears in Collections:Publikationen School of Engineering

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