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Exploring the Split Incentive: Motivations for Resource Efficiency Among Students Who Do Not Pay the Bills
Mentor: Dr. Susan Powers
Department: Institute for a Sustainable Environment

Thirteen million students use student housing on campuses in the U.S. Energy and resource waste stems from the ‘split incentive problem’: the user of the resource does not pay for it. Clarkson’s Smart Housing Project investigates influences that reduce energy use beyond immediate economic savings. This research focuses on various motivational interventions in combination with direct feedback information on energy and resource use. The Smart Housing Project employs highly-granular (fuzzy neural network computing) “smart technology” data feedback mechanisms allowing us to test motivational and educational interventions to promote resource conservation. Sensors are distributed in the new “Smart Housing” Woodstock Apartments at Clarkson. In each apartment, sensors measure electricity, water use, temperature, humidity, and air quality. Water and electricity sensors are installed for each circuit and water fixture providing total use with appliance-specific breakdown. This allows analysis of behavior by observing the context in which resources are used (e.g., showering time, energy for cooking, use of artificial lighting, etc.), information useful to evaluate effectiveness of targeted feedback messages. REU participants will assess interrelations among motivational interventions, student characteristics, and actual reductions in energy/resource use. Analysis will include examination of survey data with respect to the effects of specific kinds of feedback messaging on conservation behavior.