The Quad Energy Challenge

Carolyn Embry updating the Carothers board.

Photo Credit: Monica Zhang

Andrews, Blanton, Carothers and Littlefield battled to see who conserve the most energy the past three weeks between October 1 and 21 in the Quad Energy Challenge, a power-saving contest. In addition to the buildings competing, each floor vied to take first place over rival floors within the same dorm.

The winning residence hall, Littlefield, will receive a trophy, and the winning first floor will receive $500 at the award ceremony Oct. 25 in the quad’s courtyard. The winners were determined by measuring the buildings and floors that had the greatest percentage of reduction in energy usage. Before the competition began, a baseline for energy use was measured in order to measure relative reductions throughout the next three weeks.

Michelle Camp, a senior environmental science major, was the driving force behind the project. “I developed an interest in energy issues though my environmental science coursework. Energy generation is tied to limited resources and contributes to pollution. Energy conservation is incredibly important because it promotes the sustainable use of Earth's resources and reduces air and water pollution,” Camp said.

Camp’s project had a direct impact on both student attitudes toward energy conservation and the energy consumption of the quad. “The challenge actually gave me an incentive to take action. Like whenever I left my room, it became a habit to always turn off my lights. It didn’t change my behavior drastically, but it did help for the little things. Hopefully that attitude change stays with the rest of the honors students; that will be the energy challenge’s biggest impact in the long run,” said biomedical engineering junior Anuj Kudva, a quad resident.

The quad saved a total of 23 percent of its energy through the challenge. Camp plans on using this data as well as resident feedback to measure the effectiveness of sub-metering technology. There is a possibility of another energy challenge in the spring semester.

“I’m not sure how the measurements were taken or how someone had the initiative to plan all this out. I feel many of us just lack that initiative to change the small things that end up making a difference. As for Ms. Camp, I can’t imagine what it took to organize this project,” said freshman Christine Ku, a plan II honors quad resident.

Camp co-authored a proposal to install sub-metering technology on campus to measure and make known university energy consumption. Sub-metering is simply measuring the electricity used by an independent unit, in this case the buildings and floors that make up the quad. This was done in hopes of educating and promoting power conservation. After approval, the technology was installed in the quad residence halls.

Camp said, “A large component of the competition involves updated feedback to residents regarding floor and hall energy usage. Thus, it is important to virtually and physically display energy consumption and rankings in real-time.”

To achieve this, a website was created by design students in graduate student Riley Trigg’s junior Design and the Social Environment class. The students also promoted the competition on campus through social media and outdoor scoreboards, along with the website to give quad residents visualizations of their energy consumption.

Overall, the efforts of Camp and fellow residents have made a significant impact on energy conservation in the quad not just in terms of absolute numbers but by changing students’ perception and attitudes toward their energy usage as well. The competition may have ended Oct. 21, but hopefully Camp’s challenge will lead to students continuing their energy-saving practices and applying them in the future.

So… how much energy did we save?

Littlefield
8.1 % energy saved
Floor 1: 26 percent
Floor 2: 3.3 percent
Floor 3: -5.6 percent

Blanton
7.6% energy saved
Floor 1 and basement: 6.4%
Floor 2: 10%
Floor 3: 14%
Floor 5 and attic: 1.3%

Carothers
4.1% energy saved
Basement: 24%
Floor 1: -2.4%
Floor 2: -0.2%
Floor 3: -5.6%

Andrews
3.1% energy saved
Floor 1 and basement: 4.5%
Floor 2: -8.1%
Floor 3: 11%
Floor 4 and attic: 15%