Sansom, Meyerson, & Du Bois star in Power Down Challenge

From Feb. 3 through March 2, students, faculty, and staff across campus switched their mental light bulbs on to find creative ways to conserve electricity for Penn’s 2014 Power Down Challenge.

The competition, which engaged all of the University’s College Houses and seven of its non-residential campus buildings, aimed not only to promote energy consciousness among the Penn community, but also to get participants to adopt practices that will last year-round.

Dan Garofalo, environmental sustainability coordinator at Penn’s Green Campus Partnership, says he was pleased with the participation in this year’s Challenge.

“It was a challenging month with the unusual amount of cold weather and snow—not an easy time to reduce energy use,” Garofalo says. “All the campus buildings were very successful in getting occupants to shut off devices and lights over the weekends; they all had significant drops in usage each weekend. On the residential side, it was gratifying to see energy conservation increase in every house during the course of the competition, as more and more students got involved.”

Power Down Challenge

The competition among College Houses is based on two different measurements: percentage reduction in average daily kWh use, and gross electricity (or most kWh) reduction.

Among College Houses, Du Bois won with a total percent reduction of 4.5 percent. The College House with the largest gross electricity reduction was Sansom Place (both East and West), with a reduction of 10,446 kWh.

Non-residential campus buildings competed along two different measurements of reduction: percentage reduction in average daily kWh usage, and reduction in average daily kWh use per square foot.

Among campus buildings, Meyerson Hall won in both categories with a 7.57 percent reduction in electricity usage, and reduction in electricity usage per square foot, at -5 kWh/1000 sq. ft. The feat was due in large part to the work of Eco-Reps Victoria Alvarez, manager and research coordinator for the Architectural Conservation Laboratory; Sandi Mosgo, assistant director of operations and planning for the School of Design; and Karl Wellman, director of operations and planning for PennDesign.

“Meyerson is a studio-based building, so while we have some administrative offices, there are also a number of floors of students that are occupied 24/7. There are times when you’d walk down Locust Walk and the place would be lit up, regardless of occupancy,” Wellman says. “Our very basic message was that we needed to work together to reduce energy consumption.”

To get the word out, Wellman reached out to students, faculty, and staff via email, Facebook, and print and digital signage, encouraging occupants to unplug printers and computer monitors when not in use, reduce the amount of supplementary lighting normally used in the building, and more.

“As the challenge went on, we would see lighting normally operable now turned off. The response was fantastic,” Wellman adds. “We weren’t focusing on winning the challenge, but really, changing the culture within the Design School. As we’re in the process of renovating Meyerson, we’re going to continue to foster this sustainable behavior.”

Originally published on March 13, 2014