Engineered solutions + a behavior change program = reduced dormitory energy loss by more than 50%

The dorm energy-efficiency project (DEEP) at Brown University took a look at ways to discourage students from opening their windows during the wintertime when the heat was on.

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Historic buildings aren’t generally known for their smooth heating and cooling functionality. Old radiators and other equipment tend to have an “on/off” functionality: it can be boiling in a room in January, and occupants may feel like they have no other option than to open a window, even when the heat is on.

Piloting greener dorms: Phase I

In the spring of 2011, Brown University partnered with GreenerU to pilot a study that investigated an integrated approach to improve energy and water efficiency in Diman House, a residence hall on campus.

Using a number of engineered energy-efficiency improvements—installing thermostatic radiator valves, control systems, energy-efficient shower heads, a new hot-water heater, and redesigned LED lighting—this project simultaneously engaged and educated dorm residents about energy conservation behaviors.

Compared to energy use at Olney House as a control, with no efficiency or behavioral changes, Diman House saw a 58% reduction in thermal energy use.

Piloting greeneru dorms: Phase II

The following year, Brown underwent a second phase of this experiment: to determine the extent to which behavior  change efforts influence energy reduction efforts, as compared to engineered solutions alone. Four 1950s-vintage residential buildings were selected: Emory and Woolley Houses were controls with energy-efficiency improvements alone, and Champlin and Morriss had the same improvements, plus a set of behavior-change engagement strategies.

Behavior-change strategies included RA and student trainings, Eco-Rep programming, educational visual cues, energy showcase events, energy pledges, email campaigns, and peer-to-peer education events.

The results: dramatic

Window opening in Champlin and Morriss with engagement strategies was 50% lower compared to Emory and Woolley. Compared to buildings with no changes, window opening was 75% lower.

Since its initial work with Brown University, GreenerU has applied the same approach to additional 34 dorms there, plus at 30 more dorms across New England representing 2 million square feet of space. This represents an annual energy savings of $0.75 per square foot at dorms across New England.

Are your school’s dorm due for a look at energy-savings opportunities? Combined strategies can lead to major savings—and provide opportunities to educate and engage your student body. Call GreenerU at 781-209-5670 or email info@greeneru.com today to talk with us about opportunities to green your dorm!


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