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Screens show energy use of Commons houses - The Vanderbilt Hustler: Campus Events

Screens show energy use of Commons houses

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Posted: Wednesday, October 2, 2013 3:32 pm

New screens have been installed in the houses on The Martha Rivers Ingram Commons displaying the buildings’ real-time energy use.

The screens are the result of Green Lights, a proposal submitted by students Michael Diamond and Samuel Smith to the Green Fund early in the 2012-13 school year. 

Diamond explained that the idea originally came from Smith, who became inspired after seeing a similar program in place at Oberlin College.

At Vanderbilt, Green Lights is based off the university’s EnergyVU system, an online dashboard that allows anyone on campus to monitor any building’s energy consumption at any given time.

After the Green Lights proposal was submitted, committees of students and faculty considered all of the applications and then divided the Green Fund’s $75,000 budget among four proposals, one of which was Smith and Diamond’s. Green Lights received $25,000 in funding. 

After, Vanderbilt University Plant Operations took responsibility for the implementation of the project. Mitch Lampley, director of engineering and technical support for Plant Operations, spearheaded the process of turning the proposal into reality. 

In a statement to The Hustler, Lampley said the university bought monitors to mount in each of the 10 Commons houses and the software on which to run each display. Plant Operations also implemented extensive electrical infrastructure upgrades on The Commons so the displays could properly function. 

The program is now entirely operational, with user-friendly displays that use simple, colored smiley faces to show students how their energy usage measures up.

Students can see if their house is above, at or below a determined baseline, which is set at a 5-percent decrease from the average of the past three years’ energy usage. 

“Providing people with information about how they’re saving energy is a very powerful tool to push them to save even more energy,” said Andrea George, the director of Vanderbilt’s Office of Sustainability and Environmental Management. “(Green Lights) makes it visual and makes it something you can engage in.”

Freshmen have had mixed reactions to the Green Lights program. Some, like freshman Meredith Bradshaw, take advantage of the program.

“I like to see the smiling green face as I walk in East House,” Bradshaw said. “It makes me motivated to turn off my lights.”

Not all freshmen, though, take the same view. Fellow East House resident Taylor Gutierrez expressed his ambivalence toward the system so far.

“I notice them, but I don’t know that anyone actually pays attention to them,” Gutierrez said. “They’re always on the green smiley face … there’s just never a difference.” 

Diamond believes it is important that Commons leaders advocate for attention to Green Lights and energy usage on campus in general. 

“We’re really hoping the Commons vice presidents take up initiative with it because it’s basically one of their best tools to get the best score possible in the sustainability competition (of the Commons Cup),” Diamond said.

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