Changing residents’ behaviour key to net zero targets

Encouraging residents to make more sustainable decisions is key to meeting net zero targets, new research reveals.

Changing residents’ behaviour is key to meeting net-zero targets - ASK4 | Utopi | Spike Global | BTR News

New research reveals that encouraging residents to make more sustainable decisions in their accommodation is key to meeting net zero targets – and it can help to reduce a building’s carbon emissions by up to 35%. Independent study Changing Behaviours – conducted by ASK4, Utopi, and Spike Global – investigates the behaviour of residents living across a range of residential housing to determine how their energy use can affect net zero targets. The research focuses on the barriers preventing residents making a switch to more sustainable behaviours, the importance of education, and the role that behavioural science and technology can play in reducing energy consumption.

The research reveals that 65% of millennials and 70% of Gen-Z would be prepared to make major changes to their lifestyles to combat climate change. The report also investigates the challenges the wider residential sector faces when it comes to energy efficiency and examines the best methods to reduce excess energy consumption.

Strategies that encourage residents to conform to the wider group can be used to promote sustainable behaviour. For example, delivering energy usage statistics and data to the end user in comparison to their neighbours’ energy consumption can result in a more considered approach to energy usage.

“Excess energy consumption is a longstanding source of frustration within the residential market, and in particular, within the PBSA sector, which is why it’s crucial to communicate residents’ own energy use in a way that is clear and easy to understand. For example, students will often open a window or turn on a fan before turning down the heating, leading to unnecessary waste.

“Our own research reveals a real need to balance freedom of behaviour with the need to meet carbon emissions and energy costs targets, and it is clear that turning the heating down by just a few degrees can save hundreds of pounds and reduce our carbon footprint.”

Ben Roberts, Co-Founder & CMO, Utopi

Utopi compared two identical electrically heated flats for over six months as part of the research. One flat was heated between 18–22 degrees Celsius and the other between 25–30 degrees. The data revealed that the overheated flat used 1670% more electricity – equivalent to an additional £1474, or 1.65 metric tonnes of carbon dioxide.

“Industry net zero targets are inextricably linked to residents’ own energy and water consumption. As we enter a cost of living and ecological crisis, there is a real impetus on how we begin the conversation to empower residents to reduce their energy waste. Not everyone may fully understand the jargon. We use resident portals to engage and educate residents directly in a way that’s easy to understand.”

Jonny Wootten, Marketing Director, Spike Global

The report found that turning the heating up by three points in an average apartment can double the amount of electricity consumed. This poses a challenge for schemes that are an ‘all-inclusive bills’ model.

“Clearly there is an ‘out of sight, out of mind’ attitude. There is a stark need for education in the sector, and the solution begins with raising awareness of residents’ energy use via easy to access data.”

Jess Glover, Head of Marketing, ASK4

This data helps residents recognise their patterns of energy and water usage – and allows them to compare their results to others. As one resident cited in the research: “we can only know [how to reduce our consumption] if they make us aware of [it] and the operators don’t do that.” The research found that this approach is most successful when data is presented in an easy, timely and social manner. Another resident added: “You need to compare with something or someone. Without comparison of how you are doing, you don’t know how to interpret your usage.”

The research also reveals that residents will behave in a way that benefits the collective if they feel attached to where they live. If people feel like they are part of a wider community tackling climate change, they are more likely to join the movement. The use of resident portals offers an effective way to foster a sense of belonging within a building.

“Resident portals can be customised to include handy tips such as location of recycling bins, alongside energy use messaging, making it easy for residents to make small sustainable changes to the way they live. Pair this with personalised messaging to motivate the end user, and timely prompts are provided when residents are most likely to be receptive, and residential providers could make great strides to meet their own ESG targets.”

Jonny Wootten, Marketing Director, Spike Global

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