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Identifying and Categorizing Opportunities for Design for Sustainable User Behavior

[+] Author Affiliations
Chathura Withanage, Rahul Ashok, Katja Hölttä-Otto, Kevin Otto

Singapore University of Technology and Design, Singapore, Singapore

Paper No. DETC2014-34798, pp. V007T07A008; 12 pages
  • ASME 2014 International Design Engineering Technical Conferences and Computers and Information in Engineering Conference
  • Volume 7: 2nd Biennial International Conference on Dynamics for Design; 26th International Conference on Design Theory and Methodology
  • Buffalo, New York, USA, August 17–20, 2014
  • Conference Sponsors: Design Engineering Division, Computers and Information in Engineering Division
  • ISBN: 978-0-7918-4640-7
  • Copyright © 2014 by ASME


The constantly growing world population and depleting natural resources make promoting sustainable behavior of paramount importance. Household energy is a significant percent of global energy consumption. While there has been significant work in improving energy awareness, there remains opportunity in designing systems that help direct users toward more sustainable behavior. This is particularly true since user behavior, as influenced by attitudes, beliefs and preferences, is a main driver of the household energy consumption. In this paper, a method is presented to identify and categorize design for sustainable behavior opportunities as failure modes on unnecessary overconsumption. We do this by comparing actual behavior against the minimum necessary to complete the task. Any deviation from the energy minimum is a failure mode opportunity. We clarify when opportunities are suitable for design for sustainable behavior, and when opportunities require stronger intervention of product or process redesign. To do this, user behavior was analyzed in a living laboratory format. Subjects were asked to perform a simple daily cooking activity in two phases; first in their routine manner and subsequently by trying to reduce energy consumption. In addition to recorded data on energy consumed, the users were interviewed on each user activity to understand which activities people were aware of means to reduce energy and in which they were not. The overall results show that all participants were able to reduce their energy consumption significantly when asked to do so, but these energy reducing behaviors were often ignored and not part of their daily routine. Based on this analysis, we identify opportunities where improving energy awareness is the issue, and other opportunities where more difficult sustainable design of the product or the process is needed since users are already aware but choose not to bother with reducing consumption.

Copyright © 2014 by ASME



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