User manual for tenants

The goals of SINFONIA are interesting from an energetic and architectural points of view. The expected energy savings have led to an enormous saving potential if expanded to the whole area of the trial city. However, recent research and studies are demonstrating that the role of tenants is a major factor in the difference between calculated saving and measured results. This means that the so called “user-behavior” is significant to achieving the expected saving results.

To handle ventilation, heating, maintenance and so on correctly, it is extremely important to consider energy savings and indoor comfort to ensure buildings work as designed. The User Manual to get tenants “up-to-date” contains simple but clear information about what to do and why, during both construction and in everyday lifetime.

The main objective is not only to provide a “list of rules”, but also to improve tenants’ consciousness and responsibility. Why do I have to do this? – To live better. This should be the simple question we are trying to answer.

The first part of the manual is an introduction, led by the question “Why do we do that?” The goal is to increase people’s awareness before starting with the technical explanations. This should be a brief introduction, able to involve different groups of people (age, educational level, culture).

The “weight“ of the user in the energy performance is crucial. High performance buildings are more delicate mechanisms than the inefficient buildings that were built in the past. They need more careful attention on the part of the residents.

Several studies estimate that the wrong attitudes on the part of the building users can degrade the performance of building energy consumption by 10% to 50%, rendering the investments made to improved efficiency useless and significantly reducing the interior comfort.

For example, leaving transom windows open in a tilted position to ventilate during winter is not recommended, as the air exchange is not sufficient and the time required leads to cooling of the wall structure near the windows thus increasing the demand for thermal energy to heat the room. In addition adjusting the temperature on the thermostat by only one more or less degree may increase or decrease the thermal energy consumption by 10% in a single apartment. In the second part of the manual these topics will be simply but clearly presented and explained. The main question is “What do we have to do?”.

The third part of the manual is an explanation of the main technologies installed in the different buildings, and a maintenance scheme or calendar. The main question will be “How do we do that?”.

Lessons learnt:

Tenant involvement should start from the very beginning in a project like SINFONIA. There is resistance to changes. Designers and planners have to deal with this cultural and/or social fear to the unknown, which can be summarized by an Italian proverb: “we felt better when we felt worse”.

The content should be simple but smart. Graphics are easier to understand and should refer to everyday life situations.

According to cultural acceptance, the information will be presented as a convenient and smart way to live better, to avoid problems and mistakes. Tenants should be encouraged to be part of the change.