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Bloomington Herald-Times Articles

March 27, 2009

Which IU dorm is greenest?
Energy Challenge 2009 pits dorm against dorm to reduce environmental impact
By Dawn Hewitt
March 27, 2009

Better not sniff that Indiana University student: He or she might be cutting back on showers for the next few weeks to help out the Campus energy Challenge.

One year ago, Indiana University informatics master's students -- now alums -- David Roedl and Will Odom devised a plan to conserve energy and water use in campus halls of residence: a Web site comparing utility consumption in dorms. Their idea evolved into a competition that reduced the university's utility bills by $26,000, and won the internationally prestigious Interface Design category of the worldwide Imagine Cup student competition in Paris.

Their contributions to IU's first Campus Energy Challenge also prevented 801,454 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions, which is the equivalent of taking 67 cars off the road for one year.

Campus residents are at it again this year. The IU Energy Challenge 2009 started Wednesday, with 10 dorms and -- new this year -- several Greek houses participating.

How it works

The average April electricity and water use of each participating residence is calculated over a three-year period and serves as a baseline. During the four-week competition, IU's Utility Information Group will take meter readings at all abodes twice each week. The Web site will show up-to-date meter readings for each residence relative to its own baseline water and electric consumption.

The winner will show the greatest percent decrease in per capita electricity and water consumption against its own previous three-year average usage, as well as the greatest combined reduction of energy and water use.

The winner will be announced on April 19 during the SustainIU Earth Day event.

Mckenzie Beverage, a master's student in the School of Public Affairs, is coordinator of this year's Energy Challenge. She said she expects even more energy savings than last year.

"We have increased visibility of the competition this year through various avenues such as IUSTV, the IDS, the H-T, digital imaging screens and increased interaction with the residence hall managers and RAs. Last year's competition was hugely successful, but through this year's outreach efforts, we expect to see even greater results," Beverage said in an e-interview.

Why bother?

But why should students care? Reducing energy consumption won't reduce their housing bill. The winning residents will get a giant cookout, Beverage said. Not a bad price for Residential Programs and Services to pay in exchange for many thousands of dollars saved on its energy bill.

"Our ultimate goal is to raise awareness about energy and water conservation. Not only is it fun to compete, but students are also taking a stand in doing the right thing," Beverage said. "It demonstrates the value of energy conservation to students, and eventually this will translate into lower housing costs, especially now that RPS sees the savings."

So shouldn't the students attempt to reduce their energy use every day?

"Of course, we encourage ongoing conservation," Beverage said. "As we get more buy-in from the administration and better metering technology, we will move towards a more expansive, continuous challenge. When we get there, the Energy Challenge will evolve out of a competition, and we will be able to use technology to inform everyday personal decision making."

Briscoe determined to win again

Sebrina Roach is president of Briscoe, the dorm that won the contest last year.

"We'll be encouraging Briscoe residents to conserve energy and water, not just to preserve our status (although we are pretty proud of ourselves for winning last year), but also because conserving energy is an easy way to support the Earth's environment," Roach said in e-mail. "We don't have any specific events planned to draw attention to the event, but we are making our residents aware of the event through fliers and word of mouth from student government representatives and resident assistants, and I think Briscoe residents will be happy and enthusiastic about participating in this year's Energy Challenge. Of course we'll win again! Briscoe is awesome!"

IU dimming campus lighting Saturday for Earth Hour
March 26, 2009

The lights will dim at 8:30 p.m. Saturday across the IU campus in observance of Earth Hour, a worldwide effort to show support for action on global climate change.

IU-Bloomington is one of 25 "flagship" campuses in the U.S., and between 8:30 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. Saturday, nonessential lighting will be turned out in classroom and office buildings, athletic facilities and in residential facilities.

"As the lights are dimmed in key campus areas, the members of the Indiana University community will show solidarity with millions around the world who are concerned about the deleterious effects of climate change," Karen Hanson, IU provost and executive vice president, said in a news release.

Here is what IU is plans to do for Earth Hour:

Turn off interior lights in classrooms and office buildings, as well as exterior lights that are not essential to public safety;

Cycle building chillers and air handlers Saturday night in order to increase energy savings;

Turn off nonessential lighting in Assembly Hall, University Gymnasium and in secured areas of Memorial Stadium;

Urge students in residence halls to turn out room lights and to gather at central locations to watch NCCAA tournament games or to participate in other activities.