1st Call Projects

smart sustainability: getting to a real green neutral campus

Climate change is one of the most critical societal challenges for the coming years. COP21 in Paris demonstrated that if we would not act now to reduce the global CO2 footprint, then food production, people’s health and lives would be at stake. While following the COP21 meeting nations agreed to strive for a set of emission reduction goals, this global ambition can be achieved only through comprehensive local actions. Communities at the national, regional and local levels need to explore technological potential and changes in behavior that may cumulatively reduce CO2 footprints. Also the UT has to contribute: as a moral obligation, but also because sustainability leads to relevant science, and economic opportunities. As such, we coin the ambition for the UT to become the first a green CO2 neutral university in the Netherlands --- joining institutes like Brown (USA), Tongji (China) and Malaga (Spain).

Energy reduction crucially depends on two, highly intertwined, ingredients:

  • technical solutions, like solar power, energy efficient devices, recycling as well as relevant sensors; and
  • behavioral changes, e.g. changes in habits like switching of the heater and light when going home as well as shifts in awareness of own CO2 footprints of the campus inhabitants.

There are strong feedbacks between the two processes evolving in dynamics. Namely, improper use of technical solutions may cancel out the effect of energy efficiency: for instance, many people do not switch of their energy efficient light bulbs. This is known as a rebound effect or Jevons paradox, and constitutes a major challenge for emission reduction efforts globally. Hence, there is a strong demand for a multi-disciplinary approach that studies the integral effect of technical solutions in their social context explicitly accounting for the behavioral feedbacks. Here, the UT Living Smart Campus can serve as a true living lab where technical


We propose to quantitatively explore the impacts of the key ingredients needed for a green and CO2-neutral campus. We wish to determine the largest “energy hot spots” i.e. those places where most energy is consumed, and see what measures could be taken to reduce energy consumption for these hotspots, studying both the technological and the behavioral changes needed. In this way, it becomes clear which actions are most effective: Re-use heat from CPUs in buildings? Install smart meter to monitor individual power consumption? Give out an award for the employee (or research group) with the highest energy savings? Our action-based research aims to seek answers to these questions.


To model the effect of energy saving measures, we plan to use agent-based modeling in a participatory manner. More specifically, our action plan is the following

  1. Determine energy hot spots,
  2. Model these system as well as their users via computer simulations,
  3. Validate the model with the stakeholders (UT employees, students and management),
  4. Analyze several potential user scenarios (energy pathways), and energy-saving measures.

Since buildings and computer equipment are among the most energy hungry at the UT, we wish to work together with ICTS and EC. For ICTS there are various trade offs to be made, concerning the availability of data and equipment (more is better) versus energy efficiency (less is better).

Scientific results

Apart from societal impact, our project aims to yield first class scientific results. There is a lot to gain by leveraging expertise on agent-based modeling from BMS, EWI and energy modeling expertise from ITC. In particular, the computer science expertise at EWI yields a more convenient and flexible modeling power to agents; BMS expertise brings in the required behavioral and social sciences inputs for modeling human behavior; ITC brings in the advantage of modeling energy pathways and participatory modeling with stakeholders. All three are essential to model today’s complex socio-technical systems. The project will produce a series of peer-review conference and journal papers, as well as a software tool that will be open for the community. This collaboration between the 3 faculties strengthens the UT profile and essentially contributes to its mission.