Watching the Dials: Energy Dashboards Promote Responsible Usage

Article excerpt

Although taking steps to protect the environment is "the right thing to do," it doesn't stop people from wanting to know their efforts are making a difference. An energy dashboard can be the answer to communicating the results of campus initiatives.

"Real-time, web-based dashboards really take what's happening in the boiler room to the dorm room," says Mike Kempa, senior marketing manager for the Energy and Environmental Solutions Group at Honeywell.

Energy dashboards can pull information from electric, gas, and water meters, then present data related to consumption, cost savings, and carbon emissions. The data can then be served up either on screens in public spaces or accessed from computers and mobile devices.

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Colleges and universities that have made a commitment to sustainability will have public kiosks to make a statement to their community, while facilities personnel can use the web-based version as a management tool to monitor system performance, explains Neil Maldeis, energy solutions engineering leader at Trane.

"The dashboards help you promote all the great things you're doing on campus," says Kempa. "In the '80s and '90s, we just saved energy and didn't broadcast it." Now students and parents seek out information about sustainability efforts during the college search. Kempa has worked with a college that "was doing green before it was popular" but was losing students to schools that were doing a better job of promoting their programs.

"The Centre for Interactive Research on Sustainability dashboard is intended to work as a communications tool for the building," says Alberto Cayuela, associate director of the University of British Columbia (Canada) Sustainability Initiative, of their Honeywell system. Displayed on a video wall in the lobby, it illustrates the buildings' performance by displaying real-time energy and water usage.

Recent trends are toward interactive programs that are easy to understand. Kempa says a flat screen displaying the building's usage might raise awareness, "but you'll see the change in behavior is very limited compared to people being able to interact with it."

At Milwaukee Area Technical College (Wisc.), the interactive display from Johnson Controls in the main lobby is part of the curriculum for the energy management program. It also provides life lessons. …