A variation on the area sampling approach that is becoming more feasible with today’s technology is to develop a grid with small enough cell sizes to capture buildings and then lay that grid over a map of the United States. A computer program can perform clustering and determine whether a given cell contains any buildings by, for example, using satellite mapping to identify buildings. The panel anticipates that most buildings could be accurately classified by EIA without the need to rely on field visits. Field procedures would still have to be developed for handling cases that cannot be classified or that are misclassified, but it would be possible to implement an approach of this type in a significantly more cost-effective way than current designs that rely primarily on field listing.
Drawing a random sample of buildings based on satellite maps may be another way to approach a design of this type. For example, the street-view function of programs such as Google maps could help in assigning many of the selected buildings to an energy-consuming sector, although it would not work in all cases, and there are some areas for which the street-view function is not available. The technology and the availability of features are constantly changing, and this should also be an important consideration.
INTERACTIVE ONLINE TOOLS
Few government surveys have embraced the use of interactive online tools as a means to build awareness about a data collection and to encourage survey participation. As it becomes more and more difficult to maintain high response rates, agencies are being forced to invest more and more resources into nonrespondent follow-up, but most agencies rely on a limited number of techniques to gain respondent cooperation. In the case of a survey such as the RECS, in particular, innovative strategies involving interactive online tools may be able to engage sample members who are interested in learning about their homes’ energy consumption. Fostering a sense of involvement and reciprocity around the data collection programs will change the dynamics and could help EIA maintain high-response rates at least among a specific segment of the population.
There are a number of possibilities for integrating interactive online tools. A relatively simple approach would be to start an online community for sample members and offer online calculators or tools that would allow users to compare their homes’ energy use and features to those of an average home or to those of homes in their community. Such tools would not