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Research finds opportunities for improvement in energy saving design

Most work in sustainable product development focuses on energy and resource efficient design. While this is a valuable and worthy tactic, it does not always result in actual energy saving during device use. This is because users may not want to, or know how to, use the device in an energy efficient manner. In fact, over 30% of device energy consumption can be determined by user behavior, not just the design itself. Profs. Katja & Kevin, alongside colleagues at Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD), have developed a way to help designers to better understand and integrate user behavior with energy efficient design goals.

Most work in sustainable product development focuses on energy and resource efficient design. While this is a valuable and worthy tactic, it does not always result in actual energy saving during device use. This is because users may not want to, or know how to, use the device in an energy efficient manner. In fact, over 30% of device energy consumption can be determined by user behavior, not just the design itself. Profs. Katja & Kevin, alongside colleagues at Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD), have developed a way to help designers to better understand and integrate user behavior with energy efficient design goals. Their recent paper presents a methodology to integrate user attitudes and awareness, among other factors, in sustainable product design. They investigate user behavior and its impact on energy efficient device use. They find several opportunities for energy saving in their case study on kitchen appliance design. These opportunities include problematics with power level adjustment and coupled effects of heating, cooling, daylight, and user convenience. How would you design a device if you knew that the user will not use the optimal settings due to cooking preference, convenience, or lack of awareness? Surely not always with the same strategy!

Chathura Withanage, Katja Holtta-Otto, Kevin N Otto, Kristin Wood, 2016, Design for Sustainable Use of Appliances: A Framework based on user behavior observations, Journal of Mechanical Design. https://mechanicaldesign.asmedigitalcollection.asme.org/article.aspx?articleid=2533291

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