Dorm contest helps save the Earth

Vanessa Marcano

Vanessa Marcano

In order to make Jackrabbits aware of how much energy they are using and what their impact is on both a local and global level, the Office of Facilities and Services, Residential Life, the Energy Analysis Lab and the Wind Application Center at SDSU have joined forces to implement Efficiency Week, a dorm-wide competition seeking to determine which students can save the most energy in one week.

Starting on Nov. 8 and ending on Nov. 14, Efficiency Week is an effort to encourage each student to think about how he or she is using energy on an everyday basis.

“Each dorm will be competing and at the end of the week, we’ll tally it up and see which dorm reduced their use of electricity by the largest percentage,” said Matt Hein, a graduate student and researcher at the Wind Application Center and the Energy Analysis Lab, organizer of the event.

A traveling trophy will be presented to the dorm that wins the energy challenge.

During Efficiency Week, dorms will undergo daily meter readings, taking into consideration the number of residents, to determine the number of Kilowatt hours used per student. They will compare the usage to historical data and see who had the biggest reduction.

“Given that some buildings are simply built to be more energy efficient than others, we want to make sure to reward student effort and not the building’s efficiency,” Hein said.

The goal, Hein said, is to introduce energy-conscious concepts such as realizing how taking a shorter shower saves energy in general, or how it is crucial not only to have energy-saving devices, but also to realize the most efficient way to use them.

The Web site has been set up for Efficiency Week, complete with information for students, such as the average TV’s energy usage, comparing “boxy” sets vs. LCDs and laptop monitors.

“There is information on why laptops are more efficient than desktops, which boils down to the fact that the parts are smaller,” said Hein.

Throughout the week, students will be able to track their daily progress on the Web site, which will also have information about recycling and other ways to help the environment.

“We can do simple things like installing occupancy sensors … but we’re trying to get students to remember those things: when you’re not in a room, turn your TV off; turn your computer off or put it on sleep mode if you’re not using it,” Hein said.

Efficiency Week is not the only significant effort made at SDSU to curb energy usage.

Bob Milbrandt, energy conservation engineer at Facilities and Services, said that many of the new buildings and renovations on campus are obtaining a special state-mandated certification that confirms them as efficient.

Milbrandt said the Leadership in Energy, Efficiency and Design (LEED) certification rates a building’s efficiency and sustainability.

“The new residence halls, the Dairy-Microbiology and the Ag Hall renovation, The Union addition – these will all be LEED Silver certified,” said Milbrandt.

LEED certification consists of points and is not merely centered upon the building’s features, but also on the sustainable practices incurred during the building’s construction.

“Where you get your materials, whether they are sustainable … recycling done on the job site … The certification covers the entire construction of the buildings,” Hein said.

Many efficiency features are done in a hidden manner, such as one of the largest energy-saving efforts, done through the re-insulation of the steam piping that runs through campus.

Around $200,000 in energy grant money has been spent on preventing heat loss through steam pipes, in addition to a $150,000 investment at the Stanley J. Marshall HPER Building and $60,000 at Ag. Engineering and Plant Science, for the replacement of inefficient light fixtures. Intramural and NFA buildings are next in the light fixture replacement efforts.

“We’re working our way through campus, especially to those buildings with the most inefficient light fixtures,” Milbrandt said.

Other energy-saving features added to the buildings include occupancy sensors to turn lights off when rooms are empty and different recycling provisions.

“If President Obama’s energy efficiency stimulus project goes through, SDSU would spend $2 million in the heating plant, increasing its efficiency,” said Milbrandt.

“The way someone talks about exercise and counting calories, we want people to look at what type of devices they use, how often they drive, and in those energy choices, can you make a better one?” Hein said.

Milbrandt argued that there is a monetary aspect to saving energy. “If you save energy, you save money. It’s an economic benefit.”

Hein stated that it is important for people in developed countries to be good examples and to not waste – from energy to food, education- and lead in the efficient use of energy.

“It is still cheaper to save energy than to produce (alternative) energy. We have to be less wasteful, because it’s not fair to those who don’t have any of it. “