Dorms Compete to Reduce Their Consumption
As one steps onto the second floor of Barrows, one is immediately swallowed by a cloud of darkness. The only thing illuminating the hall is a florescent exit sign near the door.
Barrows residents explained that they are trying to win the Dorm Energy Competition by reducing energy consumption and turning their dorm into a lair of darkness.
The Dorm Energy Competition was created in April 2004 by a group of students called “Climate Justice” as a challenge to reduce electrical energy use.
Dorms are separated into two categories based on whether or not they have a commercial kitchen.
Because the dorms on campus have varying levels of energy efficiency, the competition is judged by energy reduction from an earlier measurement of energy use called the “baseline.” The dorm that consumes the least average electricity relative to its baseline wins the competition.
This year’s competition will monitor dorms from April 6-20. The dorm that has the highest reduction of energy consumption will receive an ice cream party.
Dorms are equipped with complex monitoring systems so that their energy use can be seen in real time online and in the Science Center.
According to Assistant Professor of Environmental Studies and Biology John Petersen, who is helping to run the competition, Talcott is winning so far.
“I am not aware of anything as extensive [as the Dorm Energy Monitoring at Oberlin] at any other college campus in the country,” said Meredith Dowling, assistant coordinator for the Office of Environmental Sustainability. She added that faculty and student movement to reduce energy consumption on the Oberlin campus “is really improving every single year.”
Nathan Engstrom, coordinator for the Office of Environmental Sustainability said, “The competition points out major issues in the infrastructure.” He said that many dorms need to be revamped to become more energy efficient. For instance, dorm heating cannot be controlled by students.
According to Engstrom, “This competition shows that students can make a tangible impact.”