Date of Award

8-1980

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Major

Human Ecology

Major Professor

Robbie G. Blakemore

Committee Members

Lillian Clinard, Mary Jo Hitchcock, Kenneth Kenny, Jack Haskins

Abstract

This research is the product of the researcher's development in the realm of environmental design and planning and her conviction that energy conservation is an interdisciplinary challenge. The study consists of three parts: 1) a theoretical study in which writings from multi-disciplines were examined for their potential to make a contribution to the conservation of energy; 2) a methodological study to develop an instrument to evaluate consumer acceptance of energy conserving innovation, INOVAC; and 3) an experimental field study, in which an energy conservation education program was delivered to consumers and whereby they were evaluated on the meanings they then attributed to energy conserving innovative window designs as a result of the education experience.

The research was conducted as the second of four evaluation strategies within a larger study, ENERSENSE, a project undertaken jointly by The University of Tennessee Energy, Environment, and Resources Center (EERC) and the Tennessee Agricultural Extension Service (TAES), to deliver and evaluate a multi-media program within the State of Tennessee. This project was carried out under the United States Department of Energy contract No. DOE EY 76-5-05-5049.

In the fall of 1978, a subsample of 100 was selected from the TAES clientele who had responded to the questionnaire administered as Strategy I of ENERSENSE. Equal-sized control and treatment groups were interviewed using the INOVAC instrument, which combined simulations of five innovative window concepts with semantic differential scales representative of the vernacular of the region, and question items on 1) experience with the concepts and 2) the consumer's intention to use those concepts.

Comparisons among and overall the innovative concepts were made both within each group and between the two groups. Contextual variables data supplied by both the interview and the questionnaire were examined in respect to an INOVAT index, an overall index of innovation acceptance. Space models were constructed and trends in the meaningfulness of concepts were illustrated in three-dimensional form. The treatment group indicated that it found more variety of meaningfulness among concepts; concept relationships between-groups were not uniform. The differences, however, were not found to be statistically significant. Selected attributes (k=15) and three dimensions common to all concepts were analyzed. A limited number of attributes, which were seen as being closely associated with the conservation of energy, were found to be rated more positively by the treatment group. Ratings over the three dimensions: Aesthetic Appeal, Performance Evaluation, and Economic Novelty were not significantly different between-groups, while the control group rated more within-group concept comparisons as significantly different.

The two groups did not differ significantly on the INOVAT index. Exposure to the concepts, a contextual variable, was the only variable to contribute significantly to the index. All contextual variables examined in relation to the acceptance of each window concept contributed equally to its acceptance.

The importance of this research lies both in its methodological and experimental results. INOVAC, in addition to its reliability and behavioral validity, exhibited a potential for identifying descriptive features of energy-conserving innovations. These, plus the INOVAT index, provided a multivariant means of consumer evaluation. The INOVAC included also a capacity to compare experimental groups for statistically significant differences and for relationships to contextual variables which characterize segments of consumers and their reaction to energy conserving innovation. The research findings support using the INOVAC in field experiments and acknowledge the value of the instrument as an objective means of evaluating a current and practical environmental subject, which has a definite subjective component. Further research, however, must be undertaken. Suggestions for this are discussed along with the implications for the use of the INOVAC in relation to: 1) energy policy and education; 2) design evaluation; 3) innovation diffusion; and 4) environmental planning.

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