Sharing utility bills in public maps creates peer pressure among neighboring properties. Why not become an equalizer?
Human nature is a fickle thing. Builders with good intentions with regard to housing performance and sustainability often run up against would-be homeowners who care about little other than square footage and countertop materials. For years, those of us in the "green" camp of construction have sought the magic bullets that will convert everyone to the side of conservation and responsibility. To date, our strongest allies have probably been the ever tightening parameters of building codes. The time is rapidly approaching when no new home in the U.S. will be built with less than Net Zero-plus performance.
In the meantime, however, we have roughly 130 million existing homes in need of performance upgrades, and with the advent of certain new technology, these under-performing homes, for better or worse, will have no place to hide.
This technology is data sharing via interactive maps.
For example, Gainesville, Florida, has launched a Beta website called Gainesville-Green.com that publishes the relative energy used by different house parcels in the same neighborhood. This interactive mapping system allows homeowners, utilities and city officials to quickly identify individual homes and entire neighborhoods that use a lot more power than their neighbors.
Peer pressure from neighbors has historically proven an effective method of getting people to tighten up. According to Popular Science, studies by Opower and other organizations have shown significant reduction in energy use by neighbors, when presented with the fact that their neighbors are doing upgrades.