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Greening the Campus: Improving the Environmental Performance of Buildings and Institutions

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Company: Lucid Design Group

P3 Team Members: John Peterson (faculty advisor), Vladislav Shunturov, Michael Murray, Vesselin Arnaudov

Monitoring Energy and Water Use

On college campuses, a significant percentage of total energy and water consumption takes place within dormitories. Personal choices can substantially reduce energy and water use in dorms and other institutional buildings. However, a major challenge for motivating building occupants to make choices that lead to energy and resource conservation is that they cannot easily track the implications of their decisions. This project offers a way to solve that problem.

Using their $10,000 grant from the EPA's P3 competition, a team of students from Oberlin College set out to develop a prototype of a multi-building, wireless, data monitoring system that would allow students to see how much water and energy they use in their dormitories. While this type of monitoring system can more easily be installed during the construction of new buildings, the Oberlin P3 team wanted to develop a technology that could be used in the existing, older buildings typically found on college campuses.

The P3 competitors teamed with Lucid Design Group (LDC), a company founded in 2000 by Oberlin Environmental Studies and Biology professor John Peterson, who also served as the faculty advisor for the P3 project. According to Dr. Peterson:

"At first we (LDC) focused solely on creating a system for Oberlin's Adam Joseph Lewis Center. Our goals were to monitor this building's performance in a way that provided for easy research access that generated compelling real-time displays for educating students and the general public. We discovered early on that off-the-shelf hardware and software were poorly suited to these goals. As a result we spent a number of years developing the components necessary to achieve our objectives. As others learned what we were doing and expressed interest, we came to realize the need for a company that could make this technology, and we decided to make our experience in developing site-specific installations available to the green building industry."

This is where the P3 project team came up with a program that "has the potential to significantly expand the possibilities of environmental performance monitoring systems," said Vladislav Shunturov, team member on the P3 project who is now chief technical officer for LDG. He goes on to say:

"This project represents an important increase in scale. Whereas our previous experience with monitoring systems includes buildings and their immediate landscapes, this is an effort to develop a prototype for monitoring an entire campus."

The Oberlin team participated in the 2005 P3 competition on the National Mall in Washington, DC.

Competing for Less

For their project, the team organized a two-week "Dorm Energy Competition" where dorm residents competed to reduce their energy and water use.

The P3 project implemented real-time or "high resolution" datalogging in two dorms on the Oberlin campus with the information networked for display on kiosks in the buildings and over the Web. This contrasted with "low resolution" datalogging done by students reading electricity and water meters in the other dorms. The two buildings with the high-resolution display systems showed significantly higher energy savings than those where students simply read the meters. On average, all the dorms reduced their electricity by 32 percent but the two dorms with the real-time displays won the competition with electricity savings of 56 percent. While not as dramatically as electricity use, water consumption also dropped more at the dorms with the real-time data displays.

Oberlin's team was the recipient of EPA's first P3 Award in 2005 for the excellence of their project. The winning team, in cooperation with LDC, is using the funding awarded by the EPA to install their monitoring systems in a majority of the dorms at Oberlin College.

A significant aspect of the project is the cost effectiveness of the systems. The new additions that are being developed by the P3 investigators will realize cost savings in large part because the new system will utilize newly emerging, wireless, data acquisition technologies known as "motes." Wireless is a major cost saver because between 50 to 90 percent of the cost of sensors is the installation of the wiring.

Two other P3 team members are now also members of LDC. Michael Murray is president of the company and Vesselin Arnaudov is director of research and development. The P3 team demonstrated that their technology works within the context of the EPA competition and as a business model. This is both a expression of the quality of work that the competitors undertook and EPA's commitment to promoting ideas and projects that have widespread applications.

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