GUEST COLUMN | by Govi Rao
Leveraging the latest teaching tools and programs, educational institutions (K-12 through college) across the U.S. are driving awareness and behavioral change to reduce waste as well as electricity, gas and water consumption. The results: students and teachers are becoming their own energy analysts, collaborating more closely with facility administrators to track and evaluate energy use, lower energy costs, decrease their carbon footprint, enhance occupant comfort in buildings, and meet energy reduction goals – in many cases achieving net-zero energy status (i.e. zero net energy consumption and zero carbon emissions) annually!
These innovative software tools for energy education are web-based and allow grammar school, middle school and high school educators, for example, to access and share a wealth of real-time energy data to address STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) concepts and connect with students in exciting new ways – all customized to their individual grade level and learning ability.
According to the EPA, educational institutions in the U.S. spend nearly $14 billion annually on energy. The agency also believes that colleges and universities can reduce their energy bills by 30 percent or more and sustain savings by employing a variety of measures. One such measure is the use of interactive and real-time educational dashboards and kiosk displays to monitor energy and water usage, as well as to encourage energy saving competitions on campuses.
Through interactive games, activities and projects:
Schools, colleges and universities can create “buildings as laboratories” with special interactive kiosks that allow students to engage in creating a more energy-efficient school or campus. They can access real-time energy data from their own dorm or classroom and compare it to others across campus – and even compare their energy use to other schools! Students can do their own assessments, generate audit reports and come up with recommendations to improve energy efficiency.
A user-friendly interface can demonstrate the impact students are having on carbon footprint reduction and can show progress toward net-zero energy use.
Unique energy monitoring screens can help inspire students to practice energy conservation and other sustainability efforts at school, on campus and at home.
A specially-designed K-12 interface can address STEM concepts.
Facility managers and operations personnel can identify and implement opportunities for improving energy efficiency and building performance using building benchmarking tools for baseline, budget, and energy reduction and ENERGY STAR targets.
Under the American College & University Presidents’ Climate Commitment (ACUPCC), a network of colleges and universities have committed themselves to eliminating net greenhouse gas emissions from certain campus operations, and supporting the research and educational efforts of higher education to help society reverse global warming and create a thriving, sustainable environment. Integrating sustainability into the curriculum and making it part of the educational experience is key. The initiative recognizes the unique responsibility that institutions have in influencing their communities and in educating people who will develop the critical social, economic and technological solutions.
Training the next generation of building technology workers
Current energy management platforms are helping students do more than just monitor their energy and water consumption on campus. They’re also helping to prepare them to enter into the wider energy auditing and building operations markets – “workforce training” that the current Administration sees as crucial to both environmental and economic sustainability.
From real-time learning collaboration software that enables interactive education and training for energy conservation and water management, to social media-based platforms that bring together energy-conscious communities and leverage a collective network to affect change, there are a number of tools available to foster environmental stewardship at campuses nationwide and cultivate the next crop of green building/renewable energy workers.
Govi Rao is a passionate champion of sustainability and has testified in front of the U.S. Congress on climate change and intellectual property. He is a founding member of the Institute for Sustainable Enterprise at Fairleigh Dickinson University and sits on the Board of Directors of the New Jersey Technology Council and the Advisory Board of the Rutgers University Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology. As President and CEO of Noveda Technologies, Govi Rao leads a team of energy management experts to help clients across education and other sectors reduce their carbon footprint.