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Research Projects

Engineering And Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) £820,000 (Value to University of Dundee: £14,774) 09.2010 – 10.2012

Building Banter
Building banter
Building banter
Building Banter

Main project collaborators

Chris Wright, Moixa Energy Holdings, London (Principal Investigator)
Andy Milligan, DJCAD, University of Dundee (Co-Investigator)
Kevin Curran, Federal Mogul Friction Products Ltd, Derbyshire (Co-Investigator)
Adrian Westaway, Vitamins Ltd, London (Co-Investigator)
Tim Whitely, Ove Arup & Partners Ltd, London (Co-Investigator)
Dr Marcella Ucci, The Bartlett, University College London (Co-Investigator)
Victoria Hunter, University of Leeds (Co-Investigator)
Dr Alex Rogers, University of Southampton (Co-Investigator)
Luke Howard, More Associates, London (Co-Investigator)

DJCAD TeamEPSRC, DJCAD and University of Dundee logos

Andy Milligan (Co-Investigator)

Context and background

Building banter Reducing energy and CO2 emissions of 80% by 2050 is a target for the UK government. As new build becomes increasingly unsustainable, how we rethink the spaces we work within, and how we engage users in those buildings to become concerned for energy efficiency will demand user centred strategies that are innovative and engaging.

The Building Banter project addresses the need to reduce energy use in industrial buildings. The project takes the view that existing BMS (Building Management Systems) technologies that are designed to increase efficiency and are often retrofitted into buildings, do not currently involve or engage individuals in the workplace; therefore users feel disengaged and disempowered from taking energy saving actions. The result is that buildings typically underperform in terms of energy efficiency by up to 50% on what was projected. Methods are needed to engage these individuals so that they care about, feel responsible for, and have control over the devices and processes in buildings that use (excess) energy.

Aims and objectives

The project aims to improve energy efficiency by involving building users in engaging and ongoing conversations. By exploiting and co-opting existing technologies, and developing a user-centred design approach, it will deliver ‘conversational tools’ through which people and buildings can input and receive information about their energy efficient actions.

Parallel to formal patterns of working, employees adopt informal banter in the workplace. By exploiting everyday banter, and linking people, spaces and technologies, the project will develop early stage concept prototype workshops with users and develop interventions that link users actions to the manufacturing processes of a UK factory and improved energy efficiency. Conversations emerging from the workshops will be recorded to map the process and this will be applied to a final stage consultation toolkit.


Building banter A detailed case study, prototyping, and trial deployment within an industrial site will lead to a transferrable model applicable to a wide range of non-domestic buildings. Early stage prototypes utilise existing technologies (IT servers/CCTV cameras/phone systems) and connect to personal electronic products (mobile phones/email) that can be networked with building services to create a banter between users, site and energy efficiency. The prototype solutions are simple, novel and playful in nature and this influenced the final designs of conversational tools. Interventions communicate to the users of the building through intuitive interfaces, sensorial techniques and actuators, (e.g. a mobile phone sends a ‘shiver’ to an employee passing an open window that should be closed).

Detailed site investigations tested the effectiveness of prototype energy saving interventions. This influenced new patterns of behaviour, transformed working cultures and raised awareness of energy use during the manufacturing process. The interventions developed and fitted during the project were lightweight, cheap and easy to retrofit into existing workplaces. It is not dependent on ‘high tech’ solutions that tend to be very expensive and remove control and engagement from the people in workplaces. The project’s final report focuses on behaviour change research and its link to energy efficiency and user centred design in the workplace.

Building Banter - click here to download PDF description