EE Office

A bird helps to save energy

Birds helping to save energy? They certainly are – namely in the EE Office project run by the Wuppertal Institute and the EBZ Business School. During this project, user-focused energy efficiency solutions are being developed that help increase the energy efficiency of offices. To this end, alongside a range of other measures, a “bird” created by the designer Dr Christina Zimmer was equipped with appropriate technology. The bird, which is attached to the computer screen, serves as a visual indicator and helps users to ensure that the office is correctly ventilated. The project has enormous potential since there are more than 300,000 office buildings in Germany, which account for around 10 per cent of the CO2 emissions caused by buildings.

The two-and-a-half-year project is being carried out at the Municipal Court in Bonn. A total of 91 employees from 67 offices are taking part. They were involved from the start of the project to test out user-focused energy solutions in their workplace and to identify possible obstacles and weaknesses as well as potential opportunities. In the course of two measurement phases, each lasting a period of eight to twelve weeks, the air temperature, humidity and concentration of CO2 were measured. This provided the participants with feedback on their heating and ventilating habits. The bird, known as Piaf, also helps: a white light indicates optimal values; if the light is green or orange it is advisable to ventilate the office. If the colour changes to red, however, the window should definitely be opened. If the bird’s throat flashes blue and it twitters, on the other hand, it means that the CO2 concentration has dropped considerably so the window should be closed again.

Engine for progress:

  • Exploiting the potential for behaviour-related efficiency
  • Feasible in many office buildings
  • Further development of the LivingLab research infrastructure

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Photo: Wuppertal Institut

Piaf lights up white: optimal values and no need to ventilate the office.

Room design with Piaf

The Piaf feedback and assistance system is part of a comprehensive approach developed by the project partners under the title “user-focused operational management”. Staff, facility management and building services are all seen as equally important users of a public building. They all have a considerable influence on the operation of the building. The current concepts of building automation have not recognised and implemented the potential of user-focused operational management or have only done so to an insufficient extent. Without an intensive dialogue involving the users of the building, it is not possible to organise the interaction and cooperation between systems technology, building management and user behaviour in order to achieve greater energy efficiency. The results are impressive – an increase in efficiency of 15 - 20 per cent can be achieved through user-focused operational management. In the case of the Bonn Municipal Court, this would equate to around 150 tonnes of CO2 equivalent per year. The participants can also check their personal data and receive tips on their behaviour. The LivingLab research infrastructure is also further developed by means of this user-focused approach.

Energy-saving behaviour

Window-based ventilation represents a weak area in terms of efforts to achieve energy efficiency. If the system recognises that the room temperature has dropped, it raises the heating, the open window is forgotten, and an unnecessary amount of heat disappears out of the window. Too little ventilation is not a solution either, especially in buildings without ventilation systems, since bad air quality reduces people’s sense of well-being and their personal efficiency.

In this project, the researchers are also investigating how much building physics – i.e. old and new buildings – influence behaviour and what influence building management has on energy consumption, since the transition between the seasons is often badly managed. Alongside energy efficiency, the project also leads to an improvement in air quality – and thus has a positive impact on health. As well as energy efficiency, the measurements also result in improved air quality in the office with positive effects on the staff’s health and well-being. Furthermore: what is learned in the office is also used in the home. So it is a win-win situation for the climate.

So steht es zwar im deutschen Text. Aber dieser zweite Satz sagt in etwa das gleiche aus wie der davor. Vielleicht sollte man ihn daher streichen?

Photo: Wuppertal Institut

“The day-to-day routines and behaviour patterns of a public building’s users, including staff, facility management and building services, have a significant influence on the operation of the building. This needs to be examined more closely in the context of energy efficiency. There is still considerable scope for improvement – energy savings of 15-20 percent are possible.”

Dr Carolin Baedeker, Co-Director of the Sustainable Production and Consumption Division at the Wuppertal Institute

Partners and sponsors

  • EBZ Business School GmbH
  • • NRW Building and Real Estate Department
  • Land- und Amtsgericht Bonn
  • Ministerium für Innovation, Wissenschaft und Forschung (MIWF)