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Enhancing Retrofit Device Adoption in Social Housing: Evidence from Field Experiments in Belgium

Core Concepts
Effective communication strategies utilizing social norms and benefits can significantly increase the adoption of retrofit technologies in social housing.
Abstract: Energy-efficient technologies crucial for social housing. Slow uptake due to lack of trust and perceived risks. Communication campaign designed to boost adoption. Introduction: Retrofitting with energy-efficient heating vital for climate goals. Social barriers hinder technology adoption in social housing. Low-cost intervention developed to increase acceptance. Theoretical Background: Retrofit technologies reduce emissions and improve living conditions. Barriers to adoption include lack of understanding and engagement. Lack of trust, tenant engagement, and perceived risk are key barriers. Social Norms: Descriptive norms influence behavior change significantly. Communicating norms has a positive impact on energy conservation practices. Methodology: Two randomized controlled trials conducted in collaboration with ThermoVault. Intervention group received additional information on descriptive social norms and benefits. Results Study 1: Intervention group had a higher installation success rate compared to the control group (84% vs. 80%). Results Study 2: No significant difference initially observed between groups. Building block level consideration showed a significant effect favoring the intervention group. Discussion: Findings suggest that communicating social norms and benefits increases technology adoption. References: Numerous studies support the effectiveness of social norms in promoting energy conservation behaviors.
In the first study, randomization was on housing block level: the communication led to significant higher uptake rates compared to the control group, (ß = 1.7, p = .024). In the second study randomization occurred on apartment level, again yielding a significant increase (ß = 1.62, p = 0.02), when an interaction with housing blocks was considered.
"Energy efficient technologies are particularly important for social housing settings." - Abstract "Social barriers hinder technology adoption in social housing." - Introduction

Key Insights Distilled From

by Mona Bielig,... at 03-26-2024
Enhancing retrofit device adoption in social housing

Deeper Inquiries

How can these findings be applied to other sectors beyond social housing?

The findings from the field experiments in social housing, where a communication intervention based on descriptive social norms and experienced benefits increased retrofit technology adoption rates, can be extrapolated to various other sectors. For instance, in commercial buildings or industrial settings, similar interventions could be implemented to encourage the uptake of energy-efficient technologies. By showcasing successful adoption rates and tangible benefits experienced by peers within the same sector, organizations can motivate others to follow suit. This approach leverages social norms and peer influence to drive behavior change towards sustainability.

What counterarguments exist against using descriptive social norms for technology adoption?

While leveraging descriptive social norms for technology adoption has shown promise in increasing acceptance rates, there are some counterarguments that need consideration. One potential concern is the risk of creating conformity bias among individuals who may feel pressured to adopt a certain technology simply because others are doing so. This could lead to decisions made not out of genuine interest or understanding but rather due to perceived societal expectations. Additionally, there might be instances where individuals resist conforming to norms if they perceive them as too intrusive or manipulative. Therefore, striking a balance between promoting positive behaviors through norms while respecting individual autonomy is crucial.

How might understanding collective efficacy impact future interventions in energy-related technology adoption?

Understanding collective efficacy—the belief in a group's ability to achieve common goals—can significantly impact future interventions aimed at promoting energy-related technology adoption. In the context of community-based initiatives or large-scale programs targeting multiple households or buildings, fostering a sense of collective efficacy can enhance cooperation and engagement among participants. By emphasizing shared responsibility and highlighting past successes achieved collectively within a community or organization, interventions can tap into the motivational power of group dynamics. This approach fosters collaboration, mutual support, and a sense of empowerment among participants which are essential elements for driving sustainable behavior change at scale.