Things are changing and we need the data to prove it
Everyone has a list. A list of things you want to do differently. A list of things that you would totally do if only you had the time, or if only you could stay motivated, or if only you had the guts to stop worrying about what everyone else thinks. I’m going to take wild guess at what’s on your list right now:
- Eating more healthily.
- Getting more exercise.
- Leaving the office on time for a full week.
- Spending a weekend taking a magical mystery tour around London, with no specific plan or destination, just to experience it.
- Throwing caution to the wind and taking that photography course you’ve kept in your bookmarks for the day when you can finally commit to taking it seriously (and not apologising for the composition, or the lighting, or the subject before you show someone any of your photos).
- Being ‘that person’ who is enthusiastic about playing hockey after work or taking a lunchtime yoga class.
- Setting up that Instagram account to get you looking at the world around you and not being so addicted to refreshing your emails every 10 minutes.
- Working your way through a list of pretentious gin bars without feeling guilty about it.
My current goal is one that has become a bit of a craze in the office. It started with a couple of people being gifted a FitBit at Christmas and has quickly snowballed into a regular ‘Workweek Hustle’ challenge. Granted, it results in pretty much the same people winning every week, so we’re all just competing for third place really. However, it also encourages everyone else to make that little extra effort to take a quick walk at lunch, take the slightly longer route home or strap their FitBit to a hamster on a mission to loop-the-loop around its wheel (I’m looking at you last week’s winner – 132,000 steps in a week?).
Making a change is difficult. I’m not exactly enthusiastic about exercise, but having this information at my fingertips about daily steps, resting heart rate, active minutes, hours slept and distance walked has really made me think about my daily routine and what I can do to change that for the better. Either all the energy monitoring and building performance work we do at XCO2 has wormed its way into the darkest recesses of my brain and is influencing me from the inside, or knowledge really is power. After all, if you don’t know what you’re doing, you can’t change it.
As much as we’re all enthusiastic about getting more exercise and ‘doing more steps’, keeping this up is going to be an even more interesting challenge long-term. We’ve been given the tools to change our behaviour, now it’s up to us to maintain that level of attention to the cause.
Behaviour change is a big buzzword in our industry. We throw it around like a mid-priced bottle of Malbec we’ve brought along to a barbecue, expecting everyone to stop what they’re doing and trip over each other to get a glass. But the truth is, nobody is really that concerned about your grape based gift, they’re just going to carry on swigging whatever they’ve already got in their hand. Just like trying to turn a casual sunny afternoon barbecue into a more refined affair, you need buy in from everyone to affect a real change in behaviour. We can’t expect people to make a change to their energy use if we don’t give them an environment that allows them to do so.
This is not just about changing the behaviour of occupants, but changing our behaviour as well.
The biggest thing on our list (the one we have as an industry) should be measuring what we’ve designed, learning from what it tells us and applying that knowledge across the board to make better buildings all round.
The problem with trying to get a whole industry to change all at once is that the expectations are WAY too high, because the stakes are too. Just like your expectation of a red wine intervention to change a whole party are wildly optimistic, the expectation that your next building will break the mould to deliver both performance AND financial miracles can cripple your motivation long-term. Especially if you don’t have the data you need to make informed design decisions.
The answer is that you don’t have to move mountains. All you have to do is move.
And tracking that movement by monitoring buildings, compiling this data and sharing the implications can be the one thing that reminds you that things are moving. That change is happening.
There’s a difference between having a vague, general idea you’re moving in the right direction, and being able to actually put hard numbers to that change.
So in true practice what you preach style, I’ve monitored my activity, compiled the data and am sharing the results (draw your own conclusions about my daily routine!):
It’s not about doing a not-so-humble brag about your flagship project. It’s not about shaming those who haven’t quite got up to standard. It’s not even about learning from your own projects and keeping that to yourself.
It’s about working together. As an industry.
We shouldn’t be looking for revolution, but we should be focusing on evolution. And the best way to evolve? Is to know where you stand now.
But hey, who’s counting.
Oh… we are.
Author: Alan Partington