Clarkson shares results of environment and behavior study
Sunday, February 24, 2019 - 4:20 pm

POTSDAM -- A field study ongoing since 2013 into smart housing at Clarkson University recently published its first results in the journal Environment and Behavior.

Some students living in Woodstock Village, a newer, more efficient apartment-style housing option on campus, were exposed to two tools used by those conducting the study to see how much impact they would have on students’ use of electricity and water.

Associate Psychology Professor Lisa Legault, the lead author on the paper, explained some students participated in a motivational workshop on conserving water and electricity and were also given feedback in the form of a tablet affixed to the living room wall in their apartment to show them their usage.

“Half the students in the study attended the motivational workshop and the other half did not. Similarly, half the students received electricity and water feedback and the other half did not. The feedback displays showed them exactly how much water and electricity they were using up to the minute,” Legault said.

Since the study’s inception, researchers have monitored the behavior of 353 students, and have found some interesting results.

“What we found was that for hot water, people who went to the motivational workshops and set water goals with their fellow roommates, they used 21 percent less water than those who did not get the workshop,” Legault said. “For electricity, there was an effect of the feedback screens. People who had screens displaying how much electricity they were using, used less electricity by 20 percent. That was qualified by motivation. That feedback effect was highest when they were also going to the motivational workshop.”

Legault said it was encouraging to see that the workshop and feedback were effective in motivating students to conserve resources. She also said she was slightly surprised that although the combination of the workshop and feedback were most effective in conserving electricity, only the motivational workshop was impactful with water conservation.

“Electricity and water conservation seem to have been achieved through different mechanisms,” Legault said. “Maybe the messages we should be using to get people to save water are different than the messages we should be using to get people to save electricity.”

For more on the study in Environment and Behavior, Titled “Impact of a Motivational Intervention and Interactive Feedback on Electricity and Water Consumption: A Smart Housing Field Experiment” visit https://bit.ly/2Hm9c0q.