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CHILR project summary


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Discussion of proposed ethnography of Cool Roof retrofit owners and receivers of utility rebates

Published in: Environment
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CHILR project summary

  1. 1. Dr. Susan Mazur-Stommen, Indicia Consulting Principal Investigator
  2. 2.  2010: Ethnography of Cool Roofs is a component of a larger concept called CHILR, housed at the Lyle Center for Regenerative Studies at California Polytechnic University, Pomona. ◦ seeking private and public monies ◦ embracing both industry and non-profit ◦ guiding Californians toward best-practices in residential energy conservation. 2
  3. 3.  In May 2009, Secretary of Energy Steven Chu began a media blitz in favor of painting roofs white.  At the most basic level, my research seeks to evaluate whether or not Chu’s message penetrated and affected consumer choice in California. ◦ exciting, time-delimited experiment ◦ examining how sustainable building practices spread throughout a population.  This is an opportunity to evaluate the role of ‘soft’ governmental intervention in initiating widespread action on climate change. 3
  4. 4.  What is the relationship among residential cool-roof adoption, innovators, and status?  What cultural factors will be consistent with choosing a sustainable roof?  Adoption of innovation, status of innovators, aesthetics and class, social networks and early adopters and nodes. 4
  5. 5.  My research seeks to map overlapping distribution of culture complexes and physical environment with regard to ecologically sound alternative roof adoption in California (cool, solar, vegetative).  Within these specific cultural complexes, what are the necessary and sufficient conditions for the widespread adoption of roofs that assist in the mitigation of urban heat island effects. 5
  6. 6.  “What do people think about when they think about saving energy through their roofs?”  I intend to examine ‘what role does the roof of a house play as a signifier within the material cultural complex of California?’ ◦ Particularly as it relates to class, status, neighborhood and region:  Hypothesis: the demographic most likely to listen and respond to Chu’s message will be highly educated, highly capitalized, socially liberal members of California society. 6
  7. 7.  This research would also collect information that could be predictive of California energy needs on a state/city level  I argue that patterns of consumption that can be used to predict behavior.  Hypothetical example: All people with Chemex coffee pots listen to NPR.  Here the installation of a particular roof type, and its ultimate impact on albedo, carbon emissions, and energy consumption within CA over the next ten years. 7
  8. 8.  Ethnographic research requires immersion in the environment where the decision is being made. Researching this the right way requires best practices in qualitative research.  Extreme amounts of data are generated from interviews and participant-observation. ◦ Ethnographic decision-tree modeling, free lists, pile sorts, and triad theory are all helpful in eliciting cultural domains and competencies.  Data from interviews CAN be statistically analyzed ◦ SPSS, Ethnograph, Anthropac are programs we use 8
  9. 9.  This would include a variety of settings encompassing a wide range of socio-economic circumstances in California: e.g. San Francisco vs. Indio.  My scenario predicts that, in a spider-web fashion, attitude change will begin in hotspots like Berkeley, San Francisco, Hollywood, Napa.  Next, successive tiers of localities with similar characteristics (Davis, Eureka) will be infected.  White roofs would appear in ‘spidering’ patterns through neighborhoods in a predictable sequence 9
  10. 10.  Specific informant types – 3 to 5 of each:  Individual homeowners  HOA boards  Contractors  Manufacturers  city officials  small business  Corporate  state/fed officials  Informant set is not statistically representative  Typically ‘case study’ format selected to illustrate issue  In statistically representative sets, rare issues may not appear  Surveys can be used to triangulate ethnographic data 10
  11. 11.  Understanding what role social networks play in shaping the decision-making context surrounding energy conservation investments is a major aspect of the research: ◦ Finding informants through a series of personal connections (snowball sampling) makes sense as a first pass.  A call can go out for people who have completed, are in the middle of, or are even considering investing in a cool roof. ◦ Reward for participation can be useful under specific circumstances. 11
  12. 12.  The first informants would be formally interviewed, asking a series of open-ended questions concerning the process ◦ Preliminary question sets have already been drafted ◦ Many of these can take place over the phone, although site visits would be optimal. ◦ Video and audio would be best ◦ Sample board from manufacturer could be used to query informants as to color and style choices. 12
  13. 13.  There will be different sets of questions for each informant type - 3 to 5 of each would be appropriate for ethnographic research. ◦ Focus on ACTIVE consumers and EARLY adopters ◦ We also attempt to collect economic/energy data from those who made the leap to cool roofing.  Has it lived up to their expectations?  What would they change if they did it over?  Pre-model predictions based on available data - summer heat, a/c bills, etc. 13
  14. 14.  I also anticipate collecting survey data.  Several inexpensive methods could be rapidly and repeatedly deployed throughout the research period to determine a widespread, baseline, awareness of the concept of cool roofs, as well as changing interest levels. ◦ An initial web survey to establish awareness ◦ Project web site designed to be educational as well as elicitive of open-ended responses. 14
  15. 15.  What cues are important in the decision-making process?  What is the context within which the decision is made?  Assumption: ◦ The decisions made by homeowners are constrained due to their taking place within a constellation of factors.  Question: ◦ Can we assign weights to these factors?  Which is the most determinative?  I am hypothesizing that it might NOT be cost. 15
  16. 16.  What are the issues confronting homeowners? ◦ What are some constraints?  Money/Time  Zoning/code  Social norms/neighbors  Physical setting – heat, seasonal differences  Geographic setting – e.g. urban vs rural ◦ What some catalysts?  Aesthetics  Rebates  Peers 16
  17. 17.  How much quantitative/economic thought goes into the decision on roofing? ◦ Do people understand long-term vs short-term impacts? ◦ Are they aware of issues like structural integrity, and where do they get their information from?  Empirical observation?  Narratives from contractors?  Influential members of the community? ◦ How much do local institutions (lenders/utilities/associations) inhibit/promote specific choices? 17
  18. 18. “Envisioned Project Complexity/Labor Intensity” Pros install a basic asphalt roof DIY coating of older roof Contractors install solar Pros install vegetative roof 2.5 2 1.5 1 0.5 0 0 0.5 1 1.5 2 2.5 Y-Values 18
  19. 19. 6 5 4 3 2 1 0 Social Acceptance Social Acceptance 19
  20. 20. Cost in dollars for conversion DIY Asphalt + solar Asphalt with cool pigments Solar tile Metal cool roof Extensive vegetative roof 30000 25000 20000 15000 10000 5000 0 Y-Values 0 1 2 3 20
  21. 21. Potential ROI for homeowner Cool Asphalt Metal Solar 0.5 1 1.5 1 1.5 0 -1 -1 -1 -2 -2 2 4 8 5 10 15 20 21
  22. 22.  As part of this research, we will be testing educational messages for impact on decision-making. These may include such themes as: ◦ Savings - Will immediately save you money on energy ◦ ROI - Will ultimately pay back more than you invest ◦ Cost - Lowest cost alternative ◦ Aesthetics - Most attractive, high cultural capital ◦ Value - cost effective over the lifetime of your home ◦ Simplicity - easiest to install ◦ Single application - never install another roof! ◦ Environmental - sustainably produced; no toxic waste in landfills; reduces carbon emissions; reduces heat island effect; inserts home into local ecology. 22
  23. 23.  The ultimate goal of the project is to match up social and geographical data with physical data: ◦ Changes in albedo would be compared against reported/observed conversions to white roofing in residential neighborhoods ◦ Kilowatt hour usage/cost, awareness of cost vs. changes in behavior.  We would use this data to build a predictive model that will encompass future behavior by homeowners with respect to roofing in California. 23
  24. 24.  Theoretically, I work in the tradition of environmental and architectural phenomenologists ◦ I see behavior as the logical extension of a relationship between people, their cultural understandings, and the perceived limitations imposed upon them by the environments in which they live. ◦ This triadic relationship is both ‘constituted and constituting’ such that each of the three exists in dialogue with the other two.  Behavior is the tangible expression of this relationship, and is thus available for observation and interpretation as a proxy to the intangible. 24
  25. 25. “Phenomenology also offers valuable insight into the physical, ecological, and energy dimensions of locality, community, and place. An ecological phenomenology of physical environment and landscape asks how people-in- places work experientially and behaviorally as ecological units.” David Seamon (1983) 25
  26. 26.  Pierre Bourdieu - is this a question of acquiring and spending capitals of various sorts? ◦ Capital can be 'translated' into energy units and vice versa - how much does a kilowatt hour cost? ◦ Economic capital: income, assets, credit score, equity. ◦ Cultural capital: education (major, degrees), parent's education. Financial literacy. ◦ Social capital: profession, parent's professions, neighborhood, alma mater.  Cultural ecology is a good framework for understanding energy inputs and outputs 26
  27. 27.  Class and energy consumption ◦ Elizabeth Shove - inconspicuous consumption (electricity/waste) ◦ Robert Cialdini - principles of influence (water usage, business) ◦ Daniel Miller – acknowledging consumption (relationships, material culture) ◦ Richard Wilk – consuming America ◦ Alan Warde – changing patterns of culture consumption ◦ Gardner and Stern's - Environmental Problems and Human Behavior.  Social network theory 27