The ECOS Project. An interactive simulation to promote an ECO-friendly universe.

Polson, Debra Monique (2012) The ECOS Project. An interactive simulation to promote an ECO-friendly universe. [Digital/Creative Work]

The ECOS Project (Image: PNG 2MB)
Image credit: Deb Polson

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Custom designed for display on the Cube Installation situated in the new Science and Engineering Centre (SEC) at QUT, the ECOS project is a playful interface that uses real-time weather data to simulate how a five-star energy building operates in climates all over the world.

In collaboration with the SEC building managers, the ECOS Project incorporates energy consumption and generation data of the building into an interactive simulation, which is both engaging to users and highly informative, and which invites play and reflection on the roles of green buildings. ECOS focuses on the principle that humans can have both a positive and negative impact on ecosystems with both local and global consequence.

The ECOS project draws on the practice of Eco-Visualisation, a term used to encapsulate the important merging of environmental data visualization with the philosophy of sustainability. Holmes (2007) uses the term Eco-Visualisation (EV) to refer to data visualisations that ‘display the real time consumption statistics of key environmental resources for the goal of promoting ecological literacy’. EVs are commonly artifacts of interaction design, information design, interface design and industrial design, but are informed by various intellectual disciplines that have shared interests in sustainability. As a result of surveying a number of projects, Pierce, Odom and Blevis (2008) outline strategies for designing and evaluating effective EVs, including ‘connecting behavior to material impacts of consumption, encouraging playful engagement and exploration with energy, raising public awareness and facilitating discussion, and stimulating critical reflection.’ Consequently, Froehlich (2010) and his colleagues also use the term ‘Eco-feedback technology’ to describe the same field. ‘Green IT’ is another variation which Tomlinson (2010) describes as a ‘field at the juncture of two trends… the growing concern over environmental issues’ and ‘the use of digital tools and techniques for manipulating information.’

The ECOS Project team is guided by these principles, but more importantly, propose an example for how these principles may be achieved.

The ECOS Project presents a simplified interface to the very complex domain of thermodynamic and climate modeling. From a mathematical perspective, the simulation can be divided into two models, which interact and compete for balance – the comfort of ECOS’ virtual denizens and the ecological and environmental health of the virtual world.

The comfort model is based on the study of psychometrics, and specifically those relating to human comfort. This provides baseline micro-climatic values for what constitutes a comfortable working environment within the QUT SEC buildings. The difference between the ambient outside temperature (as determined by polling the Google Weather API for live weather data) and the internal thermostat of the building (as set by the user) allows us to estimate the energy required to either heat or cool the building. Once the energy requirements can be ascertained, this is then balanced with the ability of the building to produce enough power from green energy sources (solar, wind and gas) to cover its energy requirements. Calculating the relative amount of energy produced by wind and solar can be done by, in the case of solar for example, considering the size of panel and the amount of solar radiation it is receiving at any given time, which in turn can be estimated based on the temperature and conditions returned by the live weather API.

Some of these variables can be altered by the user, allowing them to attempt to optimize the health of the building. The variables that can be changed are the budget allocated to green energy sources such as the Solar Panels, Wind Generator and the Air conditioning to control the internal building temperature. These variables influence the energy input and output variables, modeled on the real energy usage statistics drawn from the SEC data provided by the building managers.

Impact and interest:

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ID Code: 64919
Item Type: Creative Work (Digital/Creative Work)
Refereed: No
Other Contributors:
Role Contributors
  • David Wallace
  • Cassandra Selin
  • Warwick Mellow
Funders: Queensland University of Technology
Material: Interactive Simulation
Number of Pieces: 1
Location: From date: To date:
The Cube Installation. P Block, Gardens Point, Queensland University of Technology 2012-12-20
Additional URLs:
Keywords: Simulation Design, Data Visualisation, Interaction Design, Eco-visualisation, Energy Consumption, Energy Generation, Sustainability, Persuasive Technology, Game Design
Subjects: Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > BUILT ENVIRONMENT AND DESIGN (120000) > DESIGN PRACTICE AND MANAGEMENT (120300) > Digital and Interaction Design (120304)
Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > STUDIES IN CREATIVE ARTS AND WRITING (190000) > FILM TELEVISION AND DIGITAL MEDIA (190200) > Interactive Media (190205)
Divisions: Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Creative Industries Faculty
Copyright Owner: Copyright 2012 Please consult the author
Deposited On: 01 Dec 2013 23:07
Last Modified: 17 Jan 2014 04:10

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