Energy efficiency through tenant engagement: a pilot behavioral program for multifamily buildings

27 Feb 2018

Behavioral change interventions are being implemented more widely to achieve residential energy savings. In 2014, ACEEE launched a pilot program to test a variety of behavioral strategies for promoting energy efficiency among tenants in low- to moderate-income multifamily housing in Takoma Park, Maryland. This program included behavioral messaging, events, educational information, and the distribution of energy-saving devices. We measured energy use in the months before and after the pilot. While the program did not achieve the desired energy savings, we gained insights that can be applied in the development of future behavioral change programs. Here we provide recommendations for determining the best engagement strategies for targeted communities, utilizing relationships with building managers, finding trusted community influencers, and creating a comprehensive program that reflects the diversity of the community. The City of Takoma Park used the successes and lessons learned from this pilot program to create the Takoma Park Neighborhood Energy Challenge, a behavioral energy-saving program. This program will run until March 2016 and has already garnered significant community engagement.

Feedback on messaging and communication is particularly important given the various languages that were involved. Future behavioral programs should include follow-up evaluation to collect information about how the program was run and its effectiveness. By speaking directly with tenants to obtain feedback, programs can be adjusted to reflect the actual rather than perceived needs of the community members.

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