Sustainability & Activity Based Working

Project Overview

The client has a sustainable building and is investing in making their office space more environmentally friendly as well as making their employees more aware and included in the building’s sustainability. In addition to this, they stimulate activity-based working, but their layout does not work as they intended. These two problems make the following project objective: “Stimulate the employees of Heembouw to use the available variety in workspaces in such a way that it supports the well-being of the employees while having a positive environmental impact.” Because of the two different problems, the research has two focuses. The first aim focuses on finding out why activity-based working at the Heembouw office is not working as intended. The second aim is to find out why the target group is not aware of the sustainability of the building and how to trigger them to be more aware of the impact they have on the environment through their sustainable office. The ultimate goal of the research was to come up with a solution for both challenges and somehow combine them.


Heembouw creates places where people want to be. Together with their colleagues and suppliers, they use their knowledge and experience to create and realize a living or working environment for their customers, where they feel at home.


How do the Heembouw employees experience the office?

After the first meeting with the client, we started out with planning and conducting the research, which consisted of interviews, desk research, and fieldwork. In order to gather more information about the user, we had in-depth interviews with four Heembouw employees. In these interviews, the interviewees shared experiences and opinions on the design challenge we were facing. In addition to these interviews, we did observation, where we observed the employees of Heembouw during their workday. The observation methods we used for this were the fly-on-the-wall method and behavioural mapping.


How Might We...?

When we were done with the empathising stage we continued with the define stage. In this stage, we started out by visualising insights we got from the observation and interviews. This content was visualised in a user persona and a stakeholder map.

The next step was to define focus are and state a How Might We (HMW) question. And after conducting a brainstorm and dot-voting with the design team we decided on three HMW questions:
1.) How might we make recycling desirable?
2.) How might we use space to guide and support their sustainable journey?
3.) How might we turn Heembouw into a space where they will recycle?


Brainstorming, dot-voting, and defining concepts

For each of our three HMW questions, the 6-3-5 Brainwriting method was used to come up with ideas and inputs. Ideally, this method consists of 6 participants supervised by a moderator who writes down 3 ideas on a specific worksheet within 5 minutes, hence the name. The outcome after 6 rounds is 108 ideas generated in 30 minutes. While doing the brainstorming, we took a new twist on this method and instead of having a moderator writing down the ideas and taking the time, a timer set to 5 minutes was used so that each of us individually could write down as many ideas as possible on post-its.When the 5 minutes had passed, we individually put the ideas up on the wall and presented them to the other group-session attendees. This technique was done with one HMW question at a time. When all group members had presented their ideas, we did some dot-voting to express our preferences towards the ideas we saw a potential in. After choosing our favorites, each group member chose an idea that he/she wanted to keep working on.

After completing the 6-3-5 brainwriting, each of the us chose one of the most popular concepts to define a concept to present for the rest of the group. After each member had presented their concept we discussed each concept, how they could be improved, and which of them to continue working on. In the ideation stage, we first started out by coming up with concepts individually before presenting them to each other. Then we used these as inspiration in a brainstorming session to come up with a few concepts to present to our client.

These are the three concepts we came up with:
Tristan - assistant to raise awareness on sustainable behavior and support recycling.
C.A.R.S. - raise awareness of energy and water consumption at the workplace through color-coded signals.
EBW - encouraging the employees to reduce their energy consumption by working together with other employees and through this reducing the number of rooms being used.


What are benefits and flaws with each concept?

A good method for testing concepts, is the desktop walkthrough method, which helps to develop prototypes. A desktop walkthrough, is a small 3D model of the service environment that is being designed for. The whole situation is being brought to life, by using figures to act out the scenario. Since we hadn’t decided on one final concept yet, we decided to use the desktop walkthrough to highlight the advantages and disadvantages of each concept and to gather some feedback.

During the desktop walkthrough we discovered several things we could improve in each concept. Therefore, we decided to do another brainstorming session to look into our insights and discuss how we might improve our concepts. In the first round of brainstorming, looking back at the research insights and participant quotes served as a great inspiration and really helped with the idea flow. Therefore, the steps were repeated and additional inspirational quotes and the insights were hung on a visible place, so that everyone can have a look at anytime. Doing this helped us get closer to a final concept, however, there was something missing. The concept was there, but we needed to make it even more concrete.


What helped us define the final concept?

In addition to feedback sessions with peers, we used the Design with Intent Toolkit to further define our final concept. And these are the cards we used:


Service Staging

After defining our final concept we conducted service staging with our peers to test the interactions and feedback of our concept. Based on the feedback and our observations, the concept was tweaked before presenting it to the client.


Energy Based Working

The final concept is called Energy Based Working (EBW) and is mostly related to sustainable office user experience, but has also some activity based working aspects and our team is very proud that we managed to come up with a design that could solve both of Heembouw office’s issues. Both of these aspects are covered with the help of an interactive game that aims at engaging as many employees as possible.

EBW is an interactive awareness and feedback system, which helps to create mindfulness and understanding towards the resource consumption and energy usage in the Heembouw building in a playful, motivating, and competitive way. In addition to this, it is tracking personal energy to ensure the employees’ well-being at work.

The EBW game we created for the Heembouw office employees is very simple. We designed it with 6 main goals in mind that should constantly power the users engagement and make them reach new levels of sustainable office environment. We wanted the game to blend easily into the everyday-life of an employee by using familiar elements like budget and also thought of a more tangible way to present energy usage by expressing everything in one unit (CO2) points. We also provided the users with real-time feedback to make them aware of what is happening around them regarding energy usage and also other activities related to their personal well being. The game engages the users by using the principles of quantified self which make it trendy, fun, social and competitive. We believe that people should know what they have achieved in order to develop further and reach new personal height so we decided to show our users statistics about their performance in the game and give suggestion on how to improve their journey towards a more sustainable lifestyle. And finally in order for every participant in the game to be more motivated we made every progress in the game rewarding.

The interactive EBW game will be part of every working day at the office and every employee will take part in it. By using a personal EBW card every employee will check in at his workspot in a special card reader/slot/holder. After checking in the energy sources in the room and energy consumers such as sockets, AC, lights or monitors will become available for usage. The energy used in the period of working will be charged for every user with CO2 point per minute. At a meeting with other colleagues after they have all checked-in the energy used for the period of the meeting  will be divided among the participants again with a CO2 points per minute rate. The Work Cafe in the Heembouw office will be a point free zone where everyone can relax and get a break or a fast job done without being part of the competition. For keeping better personal energy levels, the employees are provided with a timer that they can use to set a goal for a period of time to work focused on a task and then have a break. If they follow the timer they will gain points, if not, there is an option to be alerted on not being efficient enough. The timer also aims at increasing the attention span among the office workers of Heembouw. It serves rather as a motivator to do something about the efficiency if the user wants to, but shouldn’t feel too forced into using it from other than users’ own initiative. Throwing away a paper cup in the right bin or an attempt to recycle will also gain extra CO2 points after tapping the card on the EBW device nearby . All these EBW game statistics will be available on the personal dashboard in every employee’s personal profile at Heembouw.

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