While labels are good for starters, they do not tell us anything about "in-use" performance of buildings. (Most labels are based on "modeled energy consumption.") And by now, we know that tenant behavior is a crucial determinant of ultimate energy consumption (even though motion and daylight sensors can help to optimize efficient use of resources). So, we need to understand occupant behavior. And then we need to change it. Through nudges.
This game is quite different for commercial versus residential buildings. The latter has been subject to some experiments over the past few years. I love O-Power: providing homeowners with information on their energy consumption relative to neighbors. (See this article in the academic top journal Science.) But, the effect tends to fade after about 6 months, and the question is whether we can really create a race to the bottom. Steering directly and constantly on dollars (euro's, pounds, or yen) might be effective as well. So, real time information on the current cost of heating, cooling and appliances. An advocate of the devil might say that saving cents doesn't really turn a consumer on. And I agree. But the Prius dashboard is quite cool, and many drivers try to drive as efficient as possible, as to achieve the highest MPG (this Times article on the Chevrolet Volt confirms exactly that.)
I recently installed a nicely designed gadget, called, "Wattcher." Lacking smart meters, consumers can install a reader on the meter:
which then communicates with a cool-looking device ("Dutch Design") in the home:
For full disclosure: my wife connected the sensor to the meter. She tells me it's quite simple. Now, there is real-time data and the possibility for online analysis. So far, my energy consumption has not decreased, but that might be related with long working hours, three computers and too many gadgets. (An article in the Times reported today on the energy consumption of cable set-top boxes.) Indeed, energy consumption is sensitive to life-style and income, which doesn't bode well for the future. (Dirk Brounen, John Quigley and I have named this "the Nintendo effect," and we claim that rich elderly are not only a burden for the pension system, but also for energy demand. Sorry parents.)