Project Title:

Analyzing Building Operators' Behavior to Reduce Energy Use in Commercial Buildings

Seeking to understand the behavioral and social dynamics of commercial building energy use.

Status (updated 1/25/2018): Complete

Funding sources: California Air Resources Board

Project Objective

Recognizing that commercial building are organization of occupants, building operators, facilities staff, managers, structure, equipment, software, and other aspects of the physical environment that in combination determine energy use -- this project is designed to better discover the dynamics of energy use in commercial building, and to use this information to identify strategies that reduce energy waster while improving how well buildings function for their occupants.

Significance to Industry

The project seeks to identify and investigate promising routes to lowered greenhouse gas emissions in commercial building that do not require large technological investments.

Research Approach

A modified version of CBE's web-based Occupant Indoor Environmental Quality survey was administered to all occupants in case study buildings. CBE's standard occupant survey includes questions about office layout and furnishings, thermal comfort, air quality, lighting, acoustic quality and cleanliness. It most commonly ends with questions about overall satisfaction with the building and with individual workspaces. Additional modules about occupant behavior and sustainability were added if relevant.

Both internal and external building operations staff and facilities managers were surveyed using CBE's web-based Operations and Maintenance survey. This survey gathered operations staff's assessments of the design for operations and functionality. Unlike the indoor environmental quality survey, the operations and maintenance survey was customized for each building where it is administered. In many cases, this meant adding questions about operators' experience with and opinions about occupant behavior and energy use.

The research team also collected data via a series of semi-structured interviews with building operations staff. Interviewees were asked the same set of core questions, but probing questions were not be standardized.

Our goal was to uncover and explore themes related to building operations, design and performance of interest to each group. The project also involved field visits, detailed discussions with energy managers and energy researchers, designers and policy professionals. Results were presented via several in-depth case study reports.


Goins, J., and M. Moezzi, 2012. Links between occupant complaint handling and building performance. Proceedings of Windsor Conference 2012. Windsor, United Kingdom, April 12-15.

Goins, J. 2011. Case study of CalSTRS Headquarters. CBE Internal report, August.

CalSTRS Headquarters

The first in-depth case study was performed at the CalSTRS Headquarters in Sacramento, CA. Architecture: HOK.

Interior CalSTRS Headquarters