Sustainability as a way of life is developing rapidly in the country, however, still lags far behind in the state of Michigan. The intervention is based upon a project by the City of Ann Arbor called ‘Green Rental Housing’ which aims to increase energy efficiency in the community by targeting the housing market.
of energy used
by buildings in US
of energy used
by residential in MI
fossil energy used in MI
Data Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration
Many of the renters in Ann Arbor are students and end up paying a large portion of their income for high utility costs which makes the housing unaffordable
Renters and homeowners do not have adequate access to information on sustainable properties and also, the value of buying/renting a more energy efficient property
To protect the environment and reduce GHG emissions, it is important for the general public to be aware and participate
Detailed competitive analysis of these tools suggested that only two tools are formally designed for customers to look for green homes – Greenhomesforsale and Sustainable House Day, but both are just web based tools.
The other three tools serve only a very limited part of the context such as rental search and relevant information.
To get an understanding of who the target audience are, their needs and motivations, I sent out a 15-question survey to the academic community of the University. Click here to access the survey.
Having received a total of 53 responses, following were the key takeaways:
say strongly or
somewhat concerned about the environment
say they would be willing to buy a green property in future
cite affordability as their key deciding factor, followed by distance to work/school and then their environmental impact
would be more willing to rent if they felt more informed about the financial incentives and were able to find renters
feel very little or not informed at all about green properties in Ann Arbor
Design Strategies and Storyboards
Based on user studies and design challenges, seven different solutions were identified. Storyboards were created for each of these solutions as shown below.
Six users were recruited from the respondents surveyed for a more open-ended discussion about their thoughts and motivations, as well as provide feedback and comments on the above design strategies. Here are the key insights:
It would probably be a good idea to consider the needs and limited resources for students, given how many of them are in Ann Arbor.
I do really want to contribute my part to the environment, but finances are and future investment are my primary deciding factor
I don't really know how to understand green? Plus won't this limit my options if I have other things in mind as well?
Based on target user research, I developed the following three personas which speak broadly about the target population.
Based on brainstorming and research, user interviews, and survey, I proposed a mobile application (quoted as the most used platform for housing search) that will connect the target users to nearby green properties through search function, facilitate gauging transportation options and evaluate their environmental impact/carbon footprint. In addition, monthly expenditures associated with housing and transportation are also communicated.
Connect target users to green properties through a search function with every property listing monthly finances
Gauge transportation options along with transportation expenditures for the selected property.
Estimate carbon footprint based on the selected house and transportation
There were multiple approaches to implement the design. To understand the best approach, QOC (Questions, Options and Criteria) Analysis was done which can be seen in the QOC diagrams below.
Based on QOC assessments, the options that best the design criteria were incorporated. These are:
Simultaneous map and list based viewing of properties.
Map + List show housing based on a ‘green’ score and/or other filtered criteria, with features once they select the property.
Few landing screens before search to address motivations.
Wireframes created for the first task which is defining goals and motivations which then leads to the search screen based on the defined goals
Based on the above wireframes, a low-fidelity prototype was created (video walkthrough below), and the screens were then shown to the same users for their comments and feedback.
The participants pointed out some key points which were finally taken into account in the high-fidelity prototype.
"It would be nice to have the transportation details entered before only rather than filling separately in profile"
"I would like to know the basic information like beds, bath etc. on the pop-up"
"But how do I know if these numbers rank good or bad?"
The final Hi-Fidelity Digital Prototype was developed on Adobe Illustrator, Photoshop and InVision.
The concerns expressed by the participants were incorporated in the Hi-fi protoype
Goal Based Search
The fundamental driving factor for the design solution was people’s motivation in a social cause. Hence, addressing those motivations before seems like a wise thing to do based on research and user interviews. Those motivations aren’t just the goals of the user but also overlapping concerns such as rent and utilities.
The goals and motivations are addressed in the initial few screens, where the user is asked to enter information before reaching the final search interface, and then saves the data in a profile. This ensures that what the user wants is taken care of before
Filter based on preferences
Users can filter their search based on their motivations, which from interviews were broadly identified as:
Regular monthly rent
Check monthly utility cost breakdown and sustainable features
Gauge transportation options and transportation expenditures for the given property
Estimate Carbon footprint based on the property and transport data
Check the interactive InVision Prototype below to see how the design works
Click here to view the full project report.