Title: CURRENT – Understanding and Managing Energy Use in Future Networks

PI: Prof David Hutchinson, Lancaster University

Fund: £348k TEDDI 2 year

Project lifespan: March 2011 to Nov 2013


Aims: The CURRENT project has been specifically looking into energy usage and saving potentials in an office environment. The overall aim of the project has been to help save energy and promote a more sustainable environment in an office environment, using the example of Lancaster University campus. The project has been interdisciplinary bringing together researchers from a computer science background with social scientists. It was carried out in conjunction with other leading research in climate change adaptation done at Lancaster University. One central concern was to focus on people’s everyday habits and how these are shaped in more or less sustainable ways by social norms, the technical infrastructure and the institutional set-up. Hence, Current adopted an innovative research approach with strong practical and ethical aspirations. In the case of Current, we explored how routine activities that carried out in the office (such as emailing, photocopying and having lunch) are related to the broader context of life on campus. We then worked together with the users to figure out which elements of this framework need to change in order to make life at Lancaster more fulfilling, fun and sustainable for everyone.

Methodology: The project was executed in two phases; the first phase was about understanding the current situation within an office environment on campus, specifically looking at energy related activities. The focus on energy in an office environment is an important feature since existing studies of energy use tend to focus on the home, rather than the workplace. The second phase focused on working together with the users to come up with creative solutions for change in order to improve energy usage without inhibiting other activities. In order to observe the user behaviour we used technical means (such as smart meters) as well as social sciences and ethnographical study techniques.

Academic partners:

Lancaster University

Prof David Hutchinson

Prof Ian Marshall

Dr Andreas Mauthe

Commercial partners:

University of Passau

Key outputs:

A technical infrastructure which allows one to measure and attribute energy usage within office environments. This testbed includes smart meters and a backend to record, process and analyse the data considering not just technical aspects but also user and ethical issues.

ii. The observation of users within an office environment and how their behaviour relates to energy usage. It is important to note that the users have not been passive observation objects but fully integrated within the project. In phase two of the project the energy saving potential has been explored with the users’ involvement, rather than being prescribed.

We have also disseminated our results in form of publications (e.g. Whittle, R. (forthcoming) ‘Guilt and elation in the workplace: Emotion and the governance of the environment at work’. Environmental Values) and by engaging with stakeholder groups (e.g. during the ESR Panel Meeting on 5 Feb 2013).