XRDS Article Published

Our article, Challenges in Sustainable Human-Home Interaction, has just been published in the Summer 2011 issue of ACM’s XRDS magazine. It is one of the feature articles on the issue’s theme of Green Technologies. The issue is edited by Jon Froehlich. Thank you to Jon and Erin Carson for their editorial insights and feedback.

Challenges in Sustainable Human-Home Interaction
Johnny Rodgers, Lyn Bartram, Rob Woodbury

A sustainable home is more than an efficient building: it is also a living experience that encourages residents to use fewer resources more effectively. To date, progress in the development of efficient buildings has largely focused on energy use simulations, smart automation of building systems, and engineering for optimal performance. However, strategies that focus solely on automation and efficient technologies to achieve conservation gains are often impeded by unexpected patterns of residential use that don’t fit the model — subverting the envisioned functioning of “smart homes.” Yet when supported by appropriate feedback and control affordances, small changes in behaviour such as turning off lights, eliminating standby power draws, covering or uncovering windows, and using efficient settings on household appliances can result in energy savings between 10% and 20%. Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) researchers have concentrated on eco-visualization and feedback to engage residents and encourage such changes, but have not fully integrated these techniques into actual home designs. We must bridge this gap and conceptualize residents as active and essential actors in the efficient functioning of a green building, while empowering them with the information and access they need to live sustainably.

The article is available from the XRDS print magazine, online archives, or the ACM Portal.