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What do people think about when they think about roofs? Fixing, replacing, installing them? Money obviously plays a huge role, but I am seeking other, significant yet overlooked factors in the decision-making process. What role does the roof of a house play as a signifier within the material cultural complex of California; particularly as it relates to class, status, neighborhood and region. Sub-issues to be looked at include: Adoption of innovation, status of innovators, aesthetics and class, social networks and early adopters and nodes. I am arguing that here are patterns of consumption that can be used to predict the installation of a particular roof type, and its ultimate impact on albedo, carbon emissions, and energy consumption within CA over the next ten years. Ex. All people with Chemex coffee pots listen to NPR.
Survey/questionnaire data - Open ended, and also post-educational (read list of pros and cons)
Ask open-ended, data-free questions of homeowners. Return with pertinent data, review with homeowner and ask them to re-evaluate Match outcome with assertion Need a control group where one does NOT return with data.
Charts in notebook: Pain the Ass: Physical Labor Social Acceptance: Neighbors and code enforcers ROI: Over lifetime of house Cost: Initial
Consumers would need to weigh such issues as: what knowledge do they already possess about the process; are local experts available; can information about the process be readily acquired; is specialized equipment involved; what is the permitting requirement for this roof in their locale?
Given a specific socio-cultural profile, what is the likelihood that a homeowner will choose a specific roof type in any given year. Is there a message increases the likelihood of this occurring?
Following Althusser, Husserl, Derrida, Merleau-Ponty, and Foucault.
Could be interesting and counterintuitive data out there - along the lines of 'wealthy people wear more articles of clothing.'
CHILR project summary
Dr. Susan Mazur-Stommen, Indicia Consulting
2010: Ethnography of Cool Roofs is a
component of a larger concept called CHILR,
housed at the Lyle Center for Regenerative
Studies at California Polytechnic University,
◦ seeking private and public monies
◦ embracing both industry and non-profit
◦ guiding Californians toward best-practices in
residential energy conservation.
In May 2009, Secretary of Energy Steven Chu began
a media blitz in favor of painting roofs white.
At the most basic level, my research seeks to
evaluate whether or not Chu’s message penetrated
and affected consumer choice in California.
◦ exciting, time-delimited experiment
◦ examining how sustainable building practices spread
throughout a population.
This is an opportunity to evaluate the role of ‘soft’
governmental intervention in initiating widespread
action on climate change.
What is the relationship among residential
cool-roof adoption, innovators, and status?
What cultural factors will be consistent with
choosing a sustainable roof?
Adoption of innovation, status of innovators,
aesthetics and class, social networks and
early adopters and nodes.
My research seeks to map overlapping
distribution of culture complexes and
physical environment with regard to
ecologically sound alternative roof adoption
in California (cool, solar, vegetative).
Within these specific cultural complexes,
what are the necessary and sufficient
conditions for the widespread adoption of
roofs that assist in the mitigation of urban
heat island effects.
“What do people think about when they think
about saving energy through their roofs?”
I intend to examine ‘what role does the roof
of a house play as a signifier within the
material cultural complex of California?’
◦ Particularly as it relates to class, status,
neighborhood and region:
Hypothesis: the demographic most likely to listen and
respond to Chu’s message will be highly educated,
highly capitalized, socially liberal members of
This research would also collect information
that could be predictive of California energy
needs on a state/city level
I argue that patterns of consumption that
can be used to predict behavior.
Hypothetical example: All people with Chemex
coffee pots listen to NPR.
Here the installation of a particular roof type,
and its ultimate impact on albedo, carbon
emissions, and energy consumption within CA
over the next ten years.
Ethnographic research requires immersion in the
environment where the decision is being made.
Researching this the right way requires best
practices in qualitative research.
Extreme amounts of data are generated from
interviews and participant-observation.
◦ Ethnographic decision-tree modeling, free lists, pile
sorts, and triad theory are all helpful in eliciting cultural
domains and competencies.
Data from interviews CAN be statistically
◦ SPSS, Ethnograph, Anthropac are programs we use
This would include a variety of settings
encompassing a wide range of socio-economic
circumstances in California: e.g.
San Francisco vs. Indio.
My scenario predicts that, in a spider-web fashion,
attitude change will begin in hotspots like Berkeley,
San Francisco, Hollywood, Napa.
Next, successive tiers of localities with similar
characteristics (Davis, Eureka) will be infected.
White roofs would appear in ‘spidering’ patterns
through neighborhoods in a predictable sequence
Specific informant types – 3 to 5 of each:
Informant set is not statistically representative
Typically ‘case study’ format selected to illustrate issue
In statistically representative sets, rare issues may not
Surveys can be used to triangulate ethnographic data
Understanding what role social networks play
in shaping the decision-making context
surrounding energy conservation investments
is a major aspect of the research:
◦ Finding informants through a series of personal
connections (snowball sampling) makes sense as a
A call can go out for people who have
completed, are in the middle of, or are even
considering investing in a cool roof.
◦ Reward for participation can be useful under
The first informants would be formally
interviewed, asking a series of open-ended
questions concerning the process
◦ Preliminary question sets have already been drafted
◦ Many of these can take place over the phone,
although site visits would be optimal.
◦ Video and audio would be best
◦ Sample board from manufacturer could be used to
query informants as to color and style choices.
There will be different sets of questions for
each informant type - 3 to 5 of each would
be appropriate for ethnographic research.
◦ Focus on ACTIVE consumers and EARLY adopters
◦ We also attempt to collect economic/energy data
from those who made the leap to cool roofing.
Has it lived up to their expectations?
What would they change if they did it over?
Pre-model predictions based on available data -
summer heat, a/c bills, etc.
I also anticipate collecting survey data.
Several inexpensive methods could be rapidly
and repeatedly deployed throughout the
research period to determine a widespread,
baseline, awareness of the concept of cool
roofs, as well as changing interest levels.
◦ An initial web survey to establish awareness
◦ Project web site designed to be educational as well
as elicitive of open-ended responses.
What cues are important in the decision-making
What is the context within which the decision
◦ The decisions made by homeowners are
constrained due to their taking place within a
constellation of factors.
◦ Can we assign weights to these factors?
Which is the most determinative?
I am hypothesizing that it might NOT be cost.
What are the issues confronting homeowners?
◦ What are some constraints?
Physical setting – heat, seasonal differences
Geographic setting – e.g. urban vs rural
◦ What some catalysts?
How much quantitative/economic thought
goes into the decision on roofing?
◦ Do people understand long-term vs short-term
◦ Are they aware of issues like structural integrity,
and where do they get their information from?
Narratives from contractors?
Influential members of the community?
◦ How much do local institutions
Cost in dollars for conversion
Asphalt + solar
Metal cool roof
0 1 2 3
Potential ROI for homeowner
Cool Asphalt Metal Solar
0.5 1 1.5 1
5 10 15 20
As part of this research, we will be testing
educational messages for impact on decision-making.
These may include such themes as:
◦ Savings - Will immediately save you money on energy
◦ ROI - Will ultimately pay back more than you invest
◦ Cost - Lowest cost alternative
◦ Aesthetics - Most attractive, high cultural capital
◦ Value - cost effective over the lifetime of your home
◦ Simplicity - easiest to install
◦ Single application - never install another roof!
◦ Environmental - sustainably produced; no toxic waste in
landfills; reduces carbon emissions; reduces heat island
effect; inserts home into local ecology.
The ultimate goal of the project is to match
up social and geographical data with physical
◦ Changes in albedo would be compared against
reported/observed conversions to white roofing
in residential neighborhoods
◦ Kilowatt hour usage/cost, awareness of cost vs.
changes in behavior.
We would use this data to build a predictive
model that will encompass future behavior by
homeowners with respect to roofing in
Theoretically, I work in the tradition of
environmental and architectural
◦ I see behavior as the logical extension of a relationship
between people, their cultural understandings, and the
perceived limitations imposed upon them by the
environments in which they live.
◦ This triadic relationship is both ‘constituted and
constituting’ such that each of the three exists in
dialogue with the other two.
Behavior is the tangible expression of this
relationship, and is thus available for observation
and interpretation as a proxy to the intangible.
“Phenomenology also offers valuable insight
into the physical, ecological, and energy
dimensions of locality, community, and place.
An ecological phenomenology of physical
environment and landscape asks how people-in-
places work experientially and behaviorally
as ecological units.”
David Seamon (1983)
Pierre Bourdieu - is this a question of acquiring
and spending capitals of various sorts?
◦ Capital can be 'translated' into energy units and vice
versa - how much does a kilowatt hour cost?
◦ Economic capital: income, assets, credit score, equity.
◦ Cultural capital: education (major, degrees), parent's
education. Financial literacy.
◦ Social capital: profession, parent's professions,
neighborhood, alma mater.
Cultural ecology is a good framework for
understanding energy inputs and outputs
Class and energy consumption
◦ Elizabeth Shove - inconspicuous consumption
◦ Robert Cialdini - principles of influence (water usage,
◦ Daniel Miller – acknowledging consumption
(relationships, material culture)
◦ Richard Wilk – consuming America
◦ Alan Warde – changing patterns of culture consumption
◦ Gardner and Stern's - Environmental Problems and
Social network theory