Feature Article - April 2015
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Going Green

Small Steps Make a Big Difference

By Deborah L. Vence


A Green Case

Some facilities already have made the move to be greener, as shared by Ashkin who discussed a case involving Hutton Honors College and its reduction in energy usage.

Hutton Honors College is the honors program of Indiana University (IU) in Bloomington, Ind. The college originally was housed in IU's Students Building, built in 1906. However, in 2008, a new 15,000-square-foot state-of-the-art building was constructed specifically for the college.

"Similar to many modern university buildings, the new Hutton Honors College building was designed to meet or exceed current energy-efficiency requirements. In 2011, university and college administrators decided to see just how well the building was performing in the area of energy use and if any improvements were needed. To do so, they employed the use of a 'sustainability dashboard' tool that helps monitor, among other things, the amount of energy used in the facility," Ashkin explained.

Cutting down the building’s energy usage also helped the university to reduce its overall carbon footprint and, at the same time, increase the comfort of its building occupants.

Expectations were high that the building would produce sound results. But, those expectations soon faded away after finding out through the dashboard tool that energy consumption was found to be far higher than campus administrators and engineers had anticipated.

"Surprised and puzzled, college officials discovered that many of its 16 full-time employees in the building used energy-demanding space heaters at their desks during the summer months, the workers noting that the building was too cold," he said. "Further investigations revealed that many of the same workers continued using the space heaters in the winter months because, once again, they found the building to be too cold."

To help resolve the situation, an HVAC expert was called in to fine-tune the air-conditioning and heating systems so that temperatures were more comfortable and constant, and workers no longer needed to use space heaters throughout the year. Once this was completed, the dashboard was used again to see if the facility was using less electricity and if energy costs had been reduced.

"The dashboard noted an energy savings of almost 40 percent due to a combination of the reduced plug load (due to the elimination of the space heaters) and the adjustment of temperatures throughout the facility. Using the dashboard to pinpoint excess energy consumption and develop an energy-saving strategy resulted in a $12,000 annual cost savings at the facility," he said. "Cutting down the building's energy usage also helped the university to reduce its overall carbon footprint and, at the same time, increase the comfort of its building occupants."