Monday, November 3, 2008

Building Dashboard

I ran an electricity reduction contest in the Lasell College residential houses for the month of October. I had my Environmental Science students implement programs to help residents reduce their electricity consumption for the month. Students implemented programs such as passing out CFL bulbs and convincing roommates to share a refrigerator. Data was reported weekly on the Green Campus Initiative web page. At the end of the month, electricity consumption was down 3.7% compared to October of 2007.

I ran the contest as a pilot to determine if investing in Building Dashboard is a worthwhile pursuit. Oberlin College has implemented the system and experienced up to a 55% reduction in electricity consumption in high resolution feedback buildings. By combining a building performance monitoring system with a web based display, the data can be used to engage, educate, entertain, and empower as described by John Petersen in his Definitive Design paper. Students in environmental studies courses can use the data to calculate carbon footprints and discuss energy conservation. Residents on campus can be engaged by participating in electricity reduction contests. The display system is entertaining as visual graphics display comparisons of building energy consumption. Finally, the system is empowering residents are inspired to reduce energy consumption in the building.

I ran the contest in the houses at Lasell to feel out interest. I wasn't sure it was worthwhile as I had to walk around to the houses and manually record the data each week. But one comment has convinced me it was worthwhile and should be expanded. A student in my FYS class commented that she looks forward to seeing the data each week and she discusses with her roomate what they can do to help their building. With that I am sold. I'm convinced it is worthwhile to work to find money to implement this system.

My contest was low cost and simple to run. It did not provide real-time data and required me to walk around to meters and report the data on a web page. I could not include dormitories because the meters are in the basements and I don't have access. The Building Dashboard system could be grown to include all campus buildings and increase the transparency of energy use data. I think the place to start is in the dormitories as residential house data can easily be obtained manually.

The dorm energy contest idea is great and depends on residents buying into the contest. The support of an RA can make a big difference. For example, in our contest the RA in Mott House sent text messages with ideas and words of encouragement to all residents. This house realized a 20% reduction largely due to the RA's leadership.

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