ARB Research Seminar

This page updated April 28, 2014

Why Building Operators Matter for Reducing GHG Emissions

Photo of Mithra Moezzi, Ph.D.

Mithra Moezzi, Ph.D., School of Urban Studies and Planning, Portland State University

April 28, 2014
Cal EPA Headquarters, 1001 "I" Street, Sacramento, CA

Research Project


What building operators do is a major behavior behind commercial building energy use. Technical studies estimate that changes in operations could save up to thirty percent of building energy use at low cost. These changes could yield tremendous reductions in California GHG emissions, but such changes are often not made. This presentation reports on the results of a social science-based study investigating building operations and energy use, highlighting building-level, policy, and research strategies that can help reduce commercial building energy use and potentially even improve indoor environmental conditions. Doing so starts with recognizing some of the energy paradoxes of contemporary commercial buildings: (1) occupants often report that buildings poorly support their work even while the threat of occupant complaints is a dominant force in how buildings are operated, (2) usable information on energy use is scant, and (3) the contribution of building operators and operations to building performance and energy conservation is widely undervalued. These problems cannot readily be fixed by focusing just on individual components, such as training, automation, or generic attempts at occupant engagement or behavior change, but instead require seeing and acting on buildings as social systems.

This presentation outlines some of the most important interactions shaping building energy use, and illustrates common problems as well as strategies for overcoming misalignments, drawing on stories and insights from operators, other building professionals, and occupants.

Speaker Biography

Mithra Moezzi, Ph.D., is a member of the research faculty at the School of Urban Studies and Planning at Portland State University. She specializes in studying interactions among people, energy, and buildings, combining social sciences with quantitative analysis. Dr. Moezzi's academic background is in Anthropological Folkloristics (Ph.D., University of California Berkeley) and Statistics (M.A., University of California Berkeley). Prior to her position at Portland State University, she worked for many years in the Environmental Energy Technologies Division at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

For a complete listing of the ARB Research Seminars and the related documentation
for the seminars please view the Main Seminars web page