Cleaning & Maintenance Management Online

Greater Visibility With Dashboards

June 8, 2012

Facilities large and small are slowly coming around to the idea of being "green" or sustainable.

Something that began as a grassroots movement in order to protect our fragile environment from the harm that was being caused day in and day out has slowly blossomed in to an entire industry.

No longer is the idea of protecting the environment relegated to those in charge of cleaning a facility or those who have the decision-making power when choosing light-emitting diode (LED) bulbs over their less energy-efficient counterparts.

Energy conservation, a part of any goal of becoming more sustainable, falls to the building occupants as well.

One university has taken its goal of being energy efficient and conscious of their actions'' effect on the environment to their students in a prominent way.

The Advent Of Dashboards

Fairfield University, located in Fairfield, Connecticut, introduced a device in many of the lobbies of their residential facilities that sends a clear message to students: Energy hogs, your days are numbered.

Already in the midst of reducing the campus carbon footprint, Fairfield covered the costs for an innovative and highly visible way to track and highlight campus energy usage, initiated by David W. Frassinelli, associate vice president for Facilities Management.

Called "Dashboards," the Department of Facilities Management uses these monitoring systems as a departmental support, as well as an educational tool for students.

The department will document the success of retro-commissioning and eco-friendly upgrades through the info that the Dashboards are designed to track.

These sustainability projects are part of a larger initiative, called Fairfield''s Climate Action Plan, through which the university has set its total emission reduction goals at 20 percent by 2020 and 85 percent by 2050.

The Dashboards are monitors of energy usage for the Fairfield campus that look like flat screen televisions but are intended to help Fairfield students, and the campus community, become more environmentally aware.

The Dashboards post electricity usage and heating/cooling British Thermal Units (BTUs) for student apartments in real time, by the hour, day, week and month, while offering quantifiable information, such as the number of acres of trees that would be needed to offset a particular building''s carbon footprint, something students seem to like.

"They do provide a more visible way to observe your energy consumption. They''re not nebulous; you can see the direct impact of the choices you make," said Helen Nelson, class of 2013.

The Dashboards "live" primarily in a few chosen residential facilities for their optimum visibility for students and the rest of the campus.

Eventually, the Dashboards will be located in all campus residential facilities.

As the university''s energy usage becomes more prominent, there is a visible improvement in said usage.

Learning Through Viewing

Students, faculty and staff are learning about energy consumption through the Dashboards — especially the impact on personal energy usage.

Actions, whether they are large or small, have a measurable impact on a facility''s energy usage as a whole which, in turn, affects the environment.

In select residential facilities, the Dashboards can measure energy usage by apartment.

This allows anyone to see not only how much electricity and BTUs they are consuming personally, but how much their neighbors are consuming as well, making everyone accountable for their actions.

"That is a unique aspect of the Dashboards," said Frassinelli. "We envision having contests between apartments and dorm rooms over who can consume the least amount of energy."

The Dashboards can be accessed via the Internet, but tracking the usage of campus buildings that use the most energy on the flat screens ensures the greatest amount of visibility possible.

There has also been an increase in eco-awareness projects, such as the one initiated by the student club Leaders for Environmental Action at Fairfield (LEAF).

Members of LEAF place stickers with the slogan "Stags Save Energy" on every campus light switch urging people to shut off lights.

The university has also put together a number of lectures and presentations as part of a larger push to make faculty, staff and students aware of the fragility of the Earth.

If the idea is to become more aware of how the simplest of actions can affect the environment as a whole, more emphasis must be put on ways to showcase the data many facilities already collect on a daily basis.

"Dashboards should really be a part of living in the twenty-first century, in that they can make individuals and institutions more eco-conscious," said Frassinelli.

By being made aware, those who wonder how they can help ease the strain on the environment can literally be shown the way.