A home’s monthly electricity bill shows the cost associated with a family’s energy consumption. But, how do you keep track of energy use away from home? East Carolina University has solved this problem by offering an Energy Dashboard—a web-based application that enables members of the university community to track their campus energy use in real-time.
Accessing the Dashboard is easy. Visit http://buildingdashboard.net/ecu/, which then displays a campus map with monitored areas. Choosing a specific icon will feature the electricity use of that particular location. A kiosk version of the Dashboard will also be available at http://buildingdashboard.com/clients/ecu/.
The university partnered with Lucid Design Group, which has created Dashboards for other schools, to develop ECU’s version. The interactive design of this application makes the Dashboard particularly useful because it is targeted toward the average user, not necessarily someone who has an engineering or energy background.
According to Brian Pipkin, ECU energy engineer, the Dashboard is very exciting for the university because it raises a greater awareness of energy usage.
"Most people have a good understanding of the power they use at home because they are responsible for those bills,” said Pipkin. “But, once individuals step on campus, they may lose sight of their actual impact because the university is so large and they might not feel a direct tie to the usage.”
Hopefully by increasing the awareness of energy usage, behaviors will be changed and more energy will be conserved. The main goal of the Dashboard, after all, is to increase the ECU community’s knowledge of energy consumption and to encourage better energy stewardship.
"We want people to understand the magnitude of what the university spends—not just in money but also the impact on the environment," said Pipkin. "Our overall goal is to engage the campus community to be sustainability-minded."
The Dashboard also includes other relevant data such as the weather forecast and energy conservation tips. These tips include using a desk lamp instead of an overhead light, using natural light whenever possible, keeping windows closed when air-conditioning or heat it on, turning off lights in unoccupied public spaces, and taking the stairs instead of the elevator. The Dashboard even allows users to commit to following these various conservation tips.
“People may feel like they are only one of many thousands, but if everyone does their part to turn off a light or the computer, that really adds up,” said Pipkin.
The Dashboard allows viewers to see energy consumption on different scales. A user can compare the energy usage of yesterday with today and also between various buildings on campus.
Currently the Dashboard only shows electricity use, but according to Pipkin, other utilities like water and natural gas will be added as those applications are developed.
In the future, the university plans to add residence halls to the Dashboard and host hall-to-hall competitions for energy reduction. These competitions will hopefully encourage students to become better stewards of the environment.
Pipkin has a final charge to the campus community. “The Dashboard is a very powerful tool, but only if people use it,” he said. “Become aware of your energy use and become a better steward.”
Written by Meagan Williford, University Marketing and Publications