New behavioural sustainability project charts your building’s electricity consumption in real-time

Kennyconsumpt2 UBC’s Behavioural Sustainability Lab has launched a real-time energy display project in 15 academic and residential buildings on UBC’s campus. The displays will show real-time electricity consumption in each participating building and compare it with the nearby buildings. To up the environmental ante, the student residences will be competing with each other to lower their consumption.

The Real-Time Energy Display Behaviour Research Project ( is a student-led university collaboration with UBC’s SEEDS Sustainability Program, Sustainability & Engineering, and the Department of Psychology.

Psychology’s Kenny building is being compared to CIRS and the Sing Tao building:
To compare seasonal differences and fluctuation in electricity consumption, the behavioural research project will be displaying and monitoring energy use over the course of a year. The displays will also share tips for energy conservation behaviours.

Jiaying Zhao

Jiaying Zhao

Psychology professor Jiaying Zhao, Principal Investigator of the Lab, says that a challenge for conservation is that people are often unaware of the amount of resources being used. “To address this issue, our research uses real-time visual feedback to reduce electricity consumption in campus buildings,” says Zhao, a Canada Research Chair in Behavioural Sustainability. “This project is another is example of how the lab uses psychological research to design behavioural solutions to address sustainability challenges.”

What are the displayed energy readings?

The percentage change of electricity consumption presented on the screen is derived from two energy values, both of which are electricity consumption averages that are updated every 15 minutes.

  1. Current Energy Consumption: The first value is the current electricity consumption in the building averaged between now and the last 24 hours. This is a moving average updated every 15 minutes.
  2. Reference Point: The second value is the reference point which is the average electricity consumption during the same time period last week (between the same time last week and the prior 24 hours). This reference point shifts with the current time point every 15 minutes.

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