Power Down, Creativity Up

March 17, 2014

How do you get people in our 24-7 connected society to decrease their electricity use? Acting as cheerleaders for their buildings in this year’s Power Down Challenge, Penn’s Staff & Faculty and Student Eco-Reps motivated their roommates, coworkers, neighbors, and staff members to work together to reduce energy use over the course of the four-week competition.

A kick-off party in Houston Hall got students geared up for the College House Competition. This February 3 event shared information about powering down and the raffle prizes available to winners. In addition to promoting the Green Living Certification and offering snacks from HipCityVeg, student organizers set up a photo booth. Saving energy got a little fun as people picked out some props and hats, and were photographed holding a whiteboard, where they wrote about how they planned to “power down.”

In the Non-residential Building Competition, Williams Hall held a kick-off event and giveaway of power strips and CFL bulbs to get people started. This event gave Williams occupants the chance to understand the importance of saving electricity and what the Challenge was all about.

Things got a little more technical in Huntsman Hall, where building operations staff used the competition as an opportunity to try out ways to permanently reduce energy use. For example, building engineers put their air handling units and escalators on a shutdown schedule during off-peak hours.  They reduced their light levels in common areas by 10%, and asked security guards to turn off any lights left on at night as they made rounds.

A visual approach was taken in the Towne Building, where colorful posters kept SEAS students and faculty inspired to conserve energy. The poster board displayed the percentage of energy lost and gained for every building competing in the Power Down Challenge. Each week the SEAS Green Team updated the percentages by pinning color-coded tags to show who was currently in the lead and who needed the most work.

Second-place finishers in the non-residential competition, the Perelman School of Medicine’s largest lab building, the Biomedical Research Building (BRB), reduced their power consumption during each week of the competition.  Staff there developed some fun tools to remind occupants to turn off lights and equipment, including the "wands" pictured. BRB had participation from occupants on all floors, housekeeping, shipping/receiving, AV and security staff.


Penn’s ReThink Your Footprint Campaign increases awareness of waste minimization strategies including enhanced recycling and composting efforts.

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