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GOOD Ideas For Cities Cincinnati — Home Fitness Program

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  • GOOD Ideas For Cities Cincinnati — Home Fitness Program

    The following presents an overview of the work completed by my team for the GOOD Ideas for Cities Cincinnati challenge. GOOD Ideas for Cities is a traveling program initiated by GOOD Magazine that "taps creative problem-solvers to tackle real urban challenges proposed by civic leaders and present the solutions at live events across the country." The team of five designers I was a part of was one of the six teams chosen out of almost 30 entrants to be paired with city leaders within Cincinnati to ideate for five weeks on a specific challenge the city is facing. The concepts that were generated in this time frame were presented to a live audience on May 16, 2012 and the Contemporary Art Center in Cincinnati. It was a huge honor to be a part of this program.

    The challenge my team was tasked with dealt with the energy efficiency of residential homes in the greater Cincinnati area. Specifically, our goal was to help encourage these Cincinnati homeowners to invest in energy efficient upgrades to their homes. Our partnered city leaders were two local non-profits: the Greater Cincinnati Energy Alliance and the Green Umbrella. The former is dedicated to promoting and facilitating the investment in energy efficiency, and later serves network of organizations who can accelerate sustainable initiatives through collective adoption.

    The rushed, design-charette-esque nature of the challenge made for a very focused and intense month of ideating on this problem from a user-centered perspective. I would say our big 'ah-ha' came from the realization that the problem itself needed to be somewhat reframed to help engage Cincinnati homeowners regarding home energy usage as a whole, instead of simply trying to sell them on home conversions. Overall, it was an honor to be a part of this program and an amazing learning experience along the way.
  • This is the full video of our presentation from the GOOD Ideas for Cities Cincinnati event held at the Contemporary Art Center on May 16, 2012. The video was shot, edited and produced by Queen City Projects.
  • The Process
  • The challenge we were tasked with was specifically focused on the energy efficiency of residential homes in the Greater Cincinnati Area.
  • There are two non-profit organizations in Cincinnati we were partnered with to take this initiative forward: The Greater Cincinnati Energy Alliance, which is dedicated to promoting and facilitating the investment in energy efficiency, and The Green Umbrella, which serves network of organizations who can accelerate sustainable initiatives through collective adoption.
  • But getting specific, the home energy efficient upgrades we were tasked with promoting go far beyond caulking windows and replacing lightbulbs.
  • They are a multi-step process where homeowners first have a home energy audit performed to evaluate their home’s energy efficiency, then commit to having the recommended upgrades from the home audit installed by a licensed contractor. Lastly, the GCEA and contractors follow up with the homeowners tThey are a multi-step process where homeowners first have a home energy audit performed to evaluate their home’s energy efficiency, then commit to having the recommended upgrades from the home audit installed by a licensed contractor. Lastly, the GCEA and contractors follow up with the homeowners to ensure that the work is up to spec. And the retrofits themselves are comprehensive, looking at homes from basement to attic.
  • The relatively expensive price tag has been a barrier that recent marketing has focused on through promoting discounted home audit costs and a 35% off incentive that the GCEA currently has available due to a $17 million federal grant. And the GCEA has seen some positive response, but not an overwhelming success. These results are not from a lack of effort but what we see as a lack of connection.
  • As you can see, it takes a lot of time to just explain what is going on here. Our first effort was to take this information we just shared with you and order it in a way that makes it a little easier to engage homeowners. We structured information homeowners receive into phases that organize messaging into a natural progression; first engaging homeowners about home energy usage, then moving into technical specifics, financing and support.
  • We also wanted to utilize the potential in the green umbrella’s member organizations like the zoo and museum center as way to amplify the GCEA’s reach.
  • So we ideated around different messaging channels that are either current or potential Green Umbrella members that could each deliver a consistent messaging program through unique touch-points to homeowners.
  • But before we can do any of this, there is a more basic overall problem that needs to be addressed. Before you can convince Cincinnati homeowners to make their homes more energy efficient, you have to first get Cincinnati homeowners to care about home energy usage.
  • The Proposed Solution

    By reframing the question to have a more user-centered focus, we were able to ideate on a messaging concept for the GCEA that first engages user awareness and interaction with home-energy usage, then follows through with encouragement and direction to make this a more efficient system. We also had a good deal of fun concepting on how this could all come to life with the metaphoric direction we chose.
  • The programs goal is to help homeowners begin to look at their house holistically, to consider the over all “health” of the home, through the lens of energy efficiency.
  • Your home, much like your body functions the best (or runs the most efficiently) when it’s fit. The program aims to educate people on how a fit home is defined, how you can get there, and the benefits.
  • Reframing the language also helps put some of the complex terminology in a more comfortable and comprehensible arena.
  • These are some examples of marketing materials. Using cues and imagery from fitness programs, the concept of home energy usage is introduced to homeowners in a completely new context.
  • We obviously had a lot of fun with these. Giving the idea of “home retro-fit” to a whole new definition by using fitness images from old magazines and ads.
  • Even playing with the terminology in a more playful and approachable manner.
  • This is an example of a "personal trainer kit" that a contractor, now known as a personal trainer, might bring along to a home audit to further reinforce the metaphor. The personal trainer program is also something we see as an opportunity for job creation in the area as well as a partnership with Green Umbrella certified contractors.
  • By leveraging recent technological updates that let us track and monitor data on level we’ve never had access to before and taking cues from established programs like
  • Nike + and Mint.com. we’d like to propose partnering with local utility companies to provide devices that deliver real-time feedback on energy usage, as well as how that information is aggregated and presented back to homeowners in a meaningful way.
  • The goal of incorporating teams and communities is to help change the expected social norm of home energy efficiency, so it begins to feel more like a responsibility.
  • Introducing on-site marketing campaigns that partner with Green Umbrella member organizations, like the zoo, is one way we envision community engagement. For example, stationary bike race stations that pit a bike performing like a fit house against a bike performing like an unfit house is one way to introduce homeowners to the concept of home energy efficiency.
  • Another on-site idea is the summer “cool-down station” where homeowners are introduced to the concept of home fitness coupled with the benefit of increased comfort. In the cool down station homeowners are invited to take a break from the heat by experiencing the tangible benefits of upgrading by comparing an air conditioned “fit” home against an “unfit” home.
  • We also love the idea of a competitive neighborhood challenge that encourages neighborhoods to work together to see who can be the most fit. Maybe a public event like a 5 or 10k run could kick off the competition and create awareness. Energy efficiency could be quantified into fitness-related metrics, like calories, that could be displayed in public centers and online, turning the competition into a reality-show-like experience. Maybe we could pit the Northsiders vs. Hyde Park to start?
  • In closing we wanted to leave the audience a few key points that helped shape and differentiate our ideas. These are also compilation of key lessons from case studies of how other organizations like the GCEA have tackled the problem of promoting energy efficiency. We hope that these ideas can be taken forward to help the GCEA and possibly serve as a successful case study for another organization in the the country who is wrestling with this problem.