Campus News

Gauging Real-Time Energy Use Among Campus Buildings

Story posted February 01, 2010

On a cold day recently, the energy used in Maine Hall was equivalent to that needed to cook 36 hamburgers. Or drive a car 171 miles. Or for those who prefer their measurements in cold hard cash, about $11.58.

Such electricity consumption data on 34 campus buildings is available — in real time — on Building Dashboard, a service provided through Lucid Design Group. Click to use Building Dashboard.

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A screen shot of Building Dashboard features a bar graph illustrating comparative electricity consumption among residence halls.
Click to use Building Dashboard.

Building Dashboard provides a constant measure of energy use and, in addition to the number of miles driven or burgers cooked, also offers real-time conversions into kilowatt-hours and pounds of emitted carbon dioxide.

Visitors to the Building Dashboard site can select a building and view total consumption for the day, or usage on a per-person or square footage basis. They can also select a timescale — usage over a day, week, month or year — and construct comparisons between buildings.

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An orb for each building changes color depending on current usage compared with usage during the same time of day over the previous month. Many of the orbs are currently red, reflecting the increase in energy use compared with the powered-down state over winter break.

Over the past 10 years, Facilities Management has gradually been adding meters to buildings to obtain individual readings for each structure.

Bowdoin's Division of Information Technology developed a system to collect and visualize the electrical usage data, and provided the networking and server infrastructure to support transmission of the energy and demand use data from the College's metering systems to Lucid's servers.

Coordinator for a Sustainable Bowdoin Keisha Payson says the addition of Dashboard provides advanced monitoring, verification and trouble-shooting.

"With year-to-year data, we'll be able to dig down, in user-selectable intervals, to identify spikes in electricity use and locate mechanical problems that might otherwise go undetected," says Payson.

"Dashboard empowers building occupants to make better decisions for resource use and makes energy use really visible, which engages students, faculty and staff, and helps them better understand the ramifications."

Payson says research suggests that the more immediate the feedback on electricity use, the more effective it is in motivating people to change their consumption habits, adding that the Dashboard will add a new dynamic to campus energy conservation contests.

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Individual buildings may be singled out to show electricity consumption over a selected time period.
Click to use Building Dashboard.

"We expect the Building Dashboard system installed throughout Bowdoin's campus to be a very positive contribution to their overall electricity reduction and sustainability goals, which will help motivate their students and community to adopt conservation behaviors," says Lucid Design Group's Andrew deCoriolis.

"In conjunction with Bowdoin's energy-efficiency projects, we expect Building Dashboard to catalyze conservation efforts and help decrease energy use 10 to 50 percent. "

The Web site also offers frameworks for competitions, green tips and real-time weather conditions for Brunswick.

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