Ever been in a class trying to concentrate on the lecture, while getting increasingly chilly due to what seems an overly enthusiastic air-conditioning system. Or alternatively tried not to be distracted by the apparent lack of A/C in a room that’s getting hotter by the minute.
Who can you call? And would anybody pay attention?
Thanks to Joshua Morejohn (BS, mechanical engineering, 2002) and a new interactive website developed by his Facilities Management Energy Conservation Office, UC Davis students, staff and faculty now can provide “real-time, crowd-sourced feedback” about such issues. The site, the Campus Energy Education Dashboard (CEED), debuted Nov. 3, following a “soft launch” a month earlier.
Visitors to the site — eco.ucdavis.edu — will find a campus map with “energy use intensity” figures given for eight buildings. Eventually all buildings will be included.
This site map is purely informational; students, faculty, staff and visitors wishing to add their feedback can access a new Thermal Feedback Tile available for their customized my.ucdavis.edu desktop. The new tile allows users to identify building and room number, and then select from a five-point range that indicates current comfort level: cold, chilly, perfect, warm or hot. The submitted feedback becomes part of CEED’s ever-expanding database.
“Our initial goal is the feedback system itself, to let us know how buildings are doing,” he explains. “We can’t be on site monitoring the 10 million square feet of campus at all times; we don’t have enough bodies. But all the buildings are occupied by thousands of students, staff and faculty; now they can supply us with the desired information.”
Obtaining that data is just the initial goal; Morejohn and energy analyst/project developer Kiernan March Salmon already are eager to exploit it.
She and Morejohn knew, for starters, that it would need to track all three elements of UC Davis’ unique energy system: electricity; chilled water, piped to buildings for cooling (as opposed to the on-site refrigerants more commonly used elsewhere in industry and academia); and steam, similarly piped in for heating.
“Temperature is a much bigger deal than people think,” Morejohn explains. “UC Davis spends $30 million per year on energy, and by far the biggest piece of that — roughly 50 to 60 percent — is heating and cooling.”
They persevered and developed a proto-concept that was unveiled winter quarter 2014, for the Student Housing Dorm Energy Competition.
“It was very well received,” Morejohn says. “The campus liked it, and the chancellor liked it, because it engaged students.” The project was fast-tracked with the creation of staff positions that allowed more valuable students, such as Kiernan, to be hired after they graduated.
Morejohn now oversees an expanding staff that divides its duties between two goals: 1) running campus energy projects, such as retrofitting building equipment and replacing or upgrading control systems; and 2) energy outreach, which oversees the campus energy feedback system. The new Campus Energy Education Dashboard is that team’s shining star.
For the moment, only two buildings are fully tied into CEED: the Student Community Center and Ghausi Hall. Morejohn and Salmon hope to have the remaining fully metered buildings online by next June. “Fully metered” means buildings set up to send data for all three points of their energy triangle. (Many campus buildings still report data solely for electricity, and need to be brought on line to do the same with chilled water and steam.)
“The next goal is to turn this feedback into actual projects, in order to save the campus money,” Morejohn continues. “Maybe a thermostat needs to be moved. Maybe somebody put a refrigerator in front of a sensor, which would make it think the room was too warm. Maybe a server room needs to be put on its own system, separated from the host building. Maybe a broken window, thus far unnoticed, is letting in cold air and making one room abnormally chilly, compared to the rest of the building.”
The Thermal Feedback tile was developed by the team as a tool for students, staff and faculty to send information on how they feel about the temperature in their building. It was added as a widget to my.ucdavis.edu, a site that is developed and managed by a team in the Student Affairs Office of Technology. It was released to students in mid-September, for the start of the fall quarter, and shortly thereafter for staff and faculty. The feedback from the tile will augment CEED and help Facilities find future energy projects. Early response has been impressive. “We’ve received over 2,000 feedbacks already,” Salmon notes. “We never expected so many, so quickly, given that so few people even knew the site had gone live!”
“Eventually, we envision posting this information on a campus map, where everybody can see the feedback, building by building. We also hope to enhance the data presented in the Thermal Feedback Tile, so by clicking on it a user could see overall stats for a given building: what feedback has been given, and what we’re doing about it, and on what sort of timeline.”
“We anticipate user involvement beyond simple notification,” Salmon adds. “We don’t just want students to let us know if, say, they’re too cold in a particular building; we’d like them to start thinking about why they might be too cold. Once they’re able to view the data that we’ll post, they’ll see what we see, in terms of daily or weekend trends. We hope they’ll start asking the right questions, perhaps even offering helpful suggestions.”