User Centered Design

Research projects to develop user-centred innovations to help reduce energy consumption -  four innovative research projects received government support to develop novel products and services to help reduce energy consumption in offices, schools, hospitals and other non-domestic buildings across the UK.

The four collaborative projects have received a total of £1.28 million investment from the government-backed Technology Strategy Board and the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), will look at how the demand for energy in non-domestic buildings could be reduced through encouraging changes in people's behaviour and by designing energy-related technology and services that are more user-friendly.

Explaining the background to the investment, the Technology Strategy Board's Chief Executive, Iain Gray, said:

"Technology on its own is not the silver bullet that will reduce energy consumption. The way that people interact with buildings, and how they understand and use the technology that is available, is a key factor. If technology designed to improve the energy efficiency of a building doesn't engage with the people who use it, then the building will underperform and energy savings will be limited.
"Buildings, and the technology within them, need to be ‘user centred' in their design. These projects will help us to better understand user-building interactions and will provide opportunities to develop innovative products and services that will help to deliver a better working environment while lowering CO2 emissions."

The funding follows a competition run by the Technology Strategy Board's Low Impact Buildings Innovation Platform, which aims to help the UK construction industry deliver buildings with a much lower environmental impact. The Technology Strategy Board is investing £973,975 in the four projects, while the EPSRC is investing £306,959. The total cost of the projects, including contributions from the participating organisations, was around £2.3 million.

The funding was allocated using the ‘sandpit' process. The competitive element was to attend the five day creative workshop known as a ‘sandpit'. Once there, attendees were encouraged to work collaboratively in exploring challenges and uncovering novel solutions. This has led to new unanticipated collaborations exploring novel solutions to real problems brought by the industrial attendees. Sandpits are generally used where there is insufficient experience or collaboration within the supply chain to find workable solutions.


The four projects, developed during a week-long creative workshop, are:

EMPOWER: Empowering empathic energy efficiency design: Led by More Associates, EMPOWER aims to develop an innovative user-driven energy efficient product/service system, integrating creative, empathic user-centred design techniques with novel product design innovation. This project will deliver a physical product interface onto the CarbonCulture platform that is already in use by several government departments. The partners in this project are Warwick University and Brunel University.

Energy Pet: Led by Novalia Ltd, Energy Pet will combine novel interactive printed and online tools to give feedback to users on real-time electricity use in a simple and engaging manner, using clear, simple and 2 beautiful designs and/or characters designed to be suitable for office and schools. Energy Saving Day (E-Day) Ltd and Halcrow Group Ltd are partners in this project.

The Building Banter Project: Led by Moixa Energy Holdings Ltd, the Building Banter Project will improve energy efficiency by involving building users in engaging and ongoing conversations with the building, prompting energy efficiency actions/behaviour change. For further information please see: The partners in this project are Federal Mogul, Arup, Vitamins, More Associates, University College London, Dundee University, Leeds University and Southampton University.

YouCaretaker: Led by Slider Studio Ltd in collaboration with Arup, YouCaretaker will establish an online platform joining building occupiers with professional facilities management teams in the responsible and energy efficient running of buildings, focusing initially on office buildings.

For further information about any of these projects please contact:

  • EMPOWER: Luke Nicholson,, 07968 215112
  • Energy Pet: Kate Stone,, 01223 437133
  • The Building Banter Project: Chris Stone,, 0207 734 1511
  • YouCaretaker: Michael Kohn,, 020 8223 7295