Efficology is a term that I created which means “the study of efficiency.” Since efficiency is a judgment applied to many aspects of our lives, efficology is an interdisciplinary study. This book is a collection of writings by hundreds of authors and posted only on the Internet, with the hope that readers will obtain and examine their original work to deepen their understanding of the role of efficiency in our lives.
Does improved efficiency increase personal stress? Does it increase the rate at which we abuse the natural systems that sustain us? Does it justify our domination of less efficient nations? Does it destroy cultural plurality? Does improved energy efficiency decrease the rate at which we use energy? The answers to questions such as these guide personal and policy choices.
I believe that the application of improved efficiency has many negative outcomes. Some of the writings of these authors substantiate my opinions, and some describe the benefits of improved efficiency. Their works are separated into three major categories that we inherit by birthright – natural systems, time and relationships. According to many of these authors, efficiency judgments force us to take these inherited gifts for granted so that we may then improve them, or make them more efficient. A resolution to the resulting dissatisfaction with our gifts involves merely appreciating them, leaving many of them unopened. In this book, therefore, each topic starts with descriptions of the category itself, and ends with descriptions of appreciation.
Efficiency is a ratio of input divided by output that compares one process with another. Common usage has distorted this definition to include productivity, but productivity is a rate of output per unit of time. Examples of productivity are the amount of product manufactured per year and occupancy rates for hotels. I have included a whole section on time, however, to show the confusion of productivity and efficiency. Another distortion suggests that efficiency is a ratio of costs to benefits, but costs and benefits are usually stated in monetary terms. Our government uses cost benefit analyses to judge the worthiness of environmental projects.
I have gathered these writings at this time because efficiency judgments are very popular these days, particularly in my field of expertise – energy. I have been surveying the energy used by buildings since 1974 and have presented many workshops and written many papers on various aspects of energy management.
My thanks to my associate Juliette Gordon for all her help. Many people have discussed these issues with me, whether they wanted to or not, and I want to thank Paul Grover, Mithra Moezzi, Rita Erickson, Joyce Chin, and many, many other people.
This is a work in progress. All comments and further contributions are welcome. Should any quoted author wish to have a quote removed from this electronic publication, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please be sure to include your phone number and address.