The Collegian
Tuesday, January 31, 2023

Online system monitors energy use in residence halls

The University of Richmond has launched a new online system that allows students to check electrical energy use-even per person -in the residence halls. The program graphs comparisons with other residence halls and changes in energy consumption through time.

Anyone can check this information through the Web site http://buildingdashboard.com/clients/urichmond/. For example, the energy monitoring system shows that Freeman Hall used the most energy on April 9, and that 9 p.m. was the time when residents used the most energy. But the comparison among residence halls is not yet valid. Benchmarks for typical use have not been established and each building's construction and innate energy conservation characteristics are different from other buildings, no matter what their inhabitants do.

The system, known as the Building Dashboard, is sold by the Lucid Design Group and monitors the energy consumption in all 14 residence halls on campus.

"You have other universities that are similar in size and similar in structure, working on environmental issues," said Brittni Parris, a senior environmental studies major. "The University of Richmond does not want to be left behind on the going green trend."

She explained that one survey conducted by the Environmental Studies program showed that the people on campus were interested in environmental issues, but lack knowledge.

The idea of introducing an energy monitoring system and increasing environmental awareness on campus was proposed by the Environmental Awareness Group and eventually purchased from a $100,000 grant by the Dominion Foundation in September 2008.

Mary Finley-Brook, assistant professor of geography, whose class conducted the AltURnative Energy Festival and introduced the new system to campus on April 2, said the important thing was to educate the people on an individual basis and create a baseline from which progress could be measured.

But Finley-Brook acknowledged that it was difficult to catch people's attention these days, because they were being bombarded with a flood of information.

One of the uses for the energy monitoring system will be an energy reduction competition.

"What we are hoping to get out of the system is to establish some sort of competition between the dorms over how much energy you can save," said George Souleret, a Richmond campus engineer.

Although it has not been activated yet, the monitoring system has a function that allows students from each hall to compete against one another in categories such as the reduction of energy consumption during a certain time period. The actual competition would not take place until the testing of the accuracy of the energy monitoring system was finished, Souleret said.

The aim will be to encourage students to learn what energy conservation is and what useful tips they could use, Parris said.

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"People's opinions on environmental issues are somewhat mixed," Finley-Brook said. "But there is definitely an interest in creating a change about it."

She said the AltURnative Energy Festival was an instance when she witnessed the change in people's awareness of environmental issues, and she was excited to make this change into a bigger movement.

Contact staff writer Masato Tsuruta at masato.tsuruta@richmond.edu

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