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Niamh Murtagh and Natalya Sergeeva

The construction industry is responsible for major environmental impact, particularly in terms of energy consumption, biodiversity and waste. As a sector, construction has unique characteristics including dependence on the temporary structure of the project for the delivery of its product, the built environment, and the requirement for joint working of many organisations, from micro to large. The lens of agency offers a valuable perspective with which to examine how individual professionals, projects and organisations can contribute to more sustainable outcomes. The chapter draws on the literature, primarily from psychology and construction research, to offer a review of relevant research from 2005. It explores conceptualisations of agency, and the role of agency in driving towards greater sustainability in construction. The findings note the dearth of research focusing directly on agency, and the evidence for mechanisms through which agency may exert influence, including professional and collective identities, professional and personal commitment to sustainability, narratives and framing, and the construction of knowledge. The chapter suggests questions for a future research agenda including examining success stories of sustainable construction through the lens of agency; exploring non-human agency such as materials, buildings and organisations; and the potential of altered discourses including visionary, future-oriented narratives.

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Niamh Murtagh, Birgitta Gatersleben and David Uzzell

Energy consumption in offices is particularly important amongst the environmentally impacting activities of office workers. Almost 70 per cent of this consumption is electricity, with information and computing technologies amongst the highest uses. In this chapter, we explore the question of whether individual energy feedback can influence behaviour. Research evidence on feedback in the home is reviewed but despite extensive research, the mix of approaches, small sample sizes and absence of control groups, baseline usage and inferential statistical analysis pose a challenge to conclusive findings – published studies report wide variation. In the workplace, approaches, interventions and outcomes have also been varied. A common conclusion of such studies is that interventions in the workplace can contribute to behaviour change and reduction in energy consumption and, in particular, that feedback can be an effective component of intervention. However, the chapter concludes that, despite a rapidly growing empirical base, definitive findings from the workplace remain elusive. The psychological mechanisms by which feedback may work are still unknown. Information deficit alone is insufficient as an explanation. The most promising constructs to explore further are motivation and meaning, awareness (even though we know that raised awareness in itself does not necessarily result in changed behaviour) and self-efficacy. Behaviour change requires motivation beyond the provision of information. Furthermore, the time for feedback aimed simply at energy reduction is gone. As economies shift towards lower carbon, the issue is no longer one of less energy use but shifting energy use to renewable sources alongside reducing waste. Energy at work is consumed in a collective endeavour and workers should be involved in energy-saving strategies.