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Power Down Challenge Champions

December 20, 2012

In a contest where one must save to win, Stouffer College House and the Jaffe History of Art Building totaled out as 2012 champions of the University’s three-week Power Down Challenge energy reduction competition. This friendly competition, which ran from October 31 through November 18, motivated all of Penn’s College Houses and 11 of its Campus Buildings to find effective and creative ways to save electricity. In addition to raising awareness during the competition, the Power Down Challenge aims to get participants to adopt energy-conserving practices that will continue year round.

Stouffer College House (a combination of Stouffer Hall and Mayer Hall) is known for a strong community spirit, which kept this 250-resident group a strong contender throughout the competition. With an energy savings of 14.5%, Stouffer finished out well ahead of 2nd Place (10.2%) Gregory College House and The Quad in 3rd Place (5.5%). The Quad was the 2011 College House champion.

Jaffe History of Art Building came in as the Campus Building champion, dropping energy usage by 21.6% over the competition period. Steinhardt Hall took 2nd place, reducing 12.6% over its baseline energy usage, and Huntsman Hall placed 3rd, with a 7.4% energy reduction. Of note, the Franklin Building, the 2011 Campus Building champion, built upon their energy-savings programs from last year and further reduced in this year’s competition by 2.8%, while also sustaining a permanent 10% reduction since last year’s competition.

The primary goal of the Power Down Challenge is to demonstrate the huge impact that behavior change can have on helping Penn to achieve the energy reduction goals of the Climate Action Plan. The Challenge thus encourages the occupants of each participating building to reduce energy usage by the largest percent over its own baseline usage. In addition, two buildings deserve recognition for the total amount of energy saved. As shown on the tables below, Stouffer College House saved the most energy in addition to their percent reduction with the most kWh saved (7,603 kWh saved) among College Houses. Huntsman Hall showed the largest absolute reduction in power usage (35,558 kWh) among Campus Buildings.

View the results table on the Power Down Challenge program page. Further information is available on the Power Down Challenge Dashboard website, a new tracking technology added this year to enhance the visual interest in the competition. All percentages are calculated over a baseline reading taken in early October, and manual readings taken at all buildings were used to track energy usage throughout the competition.

As seen in past competitions, not all buildings had consistent decreases in energy use. Following the close of the official competition, organizers spent time understanding the intangibles that are part of this contest. According to Penn Environmental Sustainability Coordinator Dan Garofalo, “One message clear to us, looking at this year’s results, is that the buildings that did very well are those where active student Eco-Reps or engaged Building Administrators came up with creative plans, stirred up the group spirit, and hosted information tables. They did a lot more than just say, hey, let’s all turn off our lights.”

Another variable worth noting is that some types of buildings just make saving energy more difficult. As seen also in the 2011 competition results, the high-rise College Houses (Rodin, Harnwell, Harrison) had a very hard time consistently saving power — despite having active Eco-Reps in the buildings. “We think that the high-rise apartment layout may be less conducive to community conservation efforts, and the prevalence of apartment kitchens (with refrigerators and ranges) results in a greater proportion of fixed energy usage than other houses,” posed Julian Goresko, Penn Environmental Sustainability Associate.

Organizers view the competition as a success for building awareness of energy use and motivating participants to conserve. “Overall we saved enough electricity compared to the baseline to power about 160 typical West Philly homes for the duration of the competition,” said Garofalo. “This was accomplished even though it was getting colder and darker (because of the return to Standard Time) during the length of the competition. The challenge now is to sustain the behavior initiated by this energy-reduction contest.”

Fact

Utilities represent over 85% of campus carbon emissions.

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