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DuPont Fund Grant Gives Davidson the Tools to Pinpoint Energy Usage in Residence Halls

by Davidson College

During a time of "green" expectations and sustainable decision-making, it's important for every person within an organization to use less, recycle more, and care deeply about their impact on the world. A new grant awarded to Davidson College -- to the tune of $150,000 -- will get students further engaged in energy efficiency on campus. And, if the project is successful, the rest of the campus will follow in their smaller, greener footsteps.

Claire Naisby '12, the college's energy manager, graduated last year with an idea. An environmental science major, she learned of a funding opportunity for sub-meters, available through the Jessie Ball duPont Fund. As part of its philanthropic impact, this national foundation supports small colleges and universities in their efforts to monitor and reduce energy consumption.

Sub-metering allows building and facility managers to understand the specific energy use and performance of specific equipment, which allows for more in-depth evaluation and planning for the future. Without sub-meters, organizations are only able to see their comprehensive energy use in any given time period.

"I knew about the grant opportunity, and I felt confident that Davidson could earn this funding," said Naisby. "So, I went to David Holthouser, director of facilities, and pitched the idea of creating a position at the college so I could work toward bringing this project to life."

And that, she did. Naisby worked on the grant proposal with staff member Allison Dulin '10, who previously worked as a sustainability fellow, and Davidson College is now working to install sub-meters in the 12 residence halls on campus.

"We basically get one bill from Duke Energy each month," explained Naisby. "These new meters will allow us to see how much energy is being used in each residence hall. After we find cost savings and energy savings through this new approach to monitoring our energy use, we hope to expand to all buildings on campus."

The sub-meters mean more than figuring out who's spending what. A student competition will further encourage students in each residence hall to have the greatest energy savings each month. Through the use of online dashboards, students can see the direct effects of making better and more mindful choices.

A current competition-Do It In The Dark-has taken place for the past six years using 15-year-old meters that exist on the residence halls. These meters must be manually read and recorded, and some of them are broken. The new sub-meters will be read remotely and will provide instantaneous analyses. In addition to energy use, the grant includes the installation of domestic water sub-meters, which currently do not exist in any form on campus.

"Sub-metering is incredibly important in order to understand when, where, and how much electricity and water we use," said Jeff Mittelstadt, Davidson College's first director of sustainability. "It's difficult to manage and improve without knowing how much you're using and when you're using it. Whether building managers or individual consumers, people are usually quite surprised by the amount they actually use. Once students understand the amount of resources used by each of our residence halls and how they compare to others, they can challenge each other to use less. This would help save money and conserve natural resources."

The sub-meter installation has begun and will continue through February.