Battle of the Kilowatts

Energy Reduction Competitions

How to Play by the Rules
If you’ve ever done a waste competition, you have a pretty good idea of how an energy challenge is structured. These programs can be rolled out in almost any building type or size.

You can pit two residence halls against each other, create a friendly rivalry between several floors in a high rise, or encourage buildings of a similar type across a portfolio to outdo one another. A single property can also strive to improve over its previous performance.

While each program will require a degree of tailoring, use the following guidelines to ensure the success of your competition:

1) Find a Partner in Crime – These competitions are unlikely to be handled by your facilities team alone. To execute an event on this scale, look for comrades in your organization who can help promote participation.

College FMs may partner with the student government or office of residence life. If your company has a green team, turn to those who are already sustainability cheerleaders to get others on board. Your HR and internal communications department are also great allies who can help advertise the campaign.

It’s also critical to enlist the help of your IT department, stresses Love. As you’ll be encouraging occupants to turn off their computers, you want to ensure your efforts to save energy don’t undermine IT procedures for security patches and updates.

2) Get a Clue about Consumption – How can you translate your building’s energy profile into information tenants can understand and act on? Your utility bill is a proven starting point for energy management but likely isn’t granular enough to be meaningful at the occupant level, notes Liaboe.

Campaign with Style

Need a creative name for your energy competition? Take some inspiration from these real challenges at universities and businesses.

  • Negawatt Challenge
  • Power Smackdown
  • Battle of the Plug
  • Fight the Power
  • Blackout Challenge
  • Power Down
  • Mega-Watt Madness
  • The Energy Games
  • Green Games
  • Do It in the Dark
  • Unplugged
  • Eco-Olympics
  • Be an Energy Star!
  • Kilowatt Crackdown
Total building load and energy use per square foot are good metrics to establish your baseline before starting a competition, says Mark Buckley, vice president of Environmental Affairs for Staples Advantage. Avoid focusing on costs, as price can be variable. If you don’t have submetering in place that can isolate energy usage by specific areas, such as one floor or wing, you can always do a building-wide challenge.

It’s also important to ensure all teams have an even playing field, Liaboe adds. If one team area has the print copy center but the others are simply office spaces, you don’t have an apples-to-apples comparison. You need to ensure that your competitors have a nearly identical energy profile so no one has a leg up.

Some companies turn to individual plug load meters that sync with a dashboard that occupants can access from their desktop (see Shorenstein example on page 32). Energy savings are made concrete when students can see in real-time what their computer consumes in sleep mode or employees can track the impact of shutting off their lights at night.

3) Points for Participation – Employees may not understand the complexities of submetering or the benefits of a chiller, but they know their personal task light consumes far less energy than air conditioning the entire workspace. Show occupants how actions within their immediate control can have a positive impact on the building’s performance.

Most programs focus on very simple behavior changes that need constant reinforcement to become a habit:

  • Turning off lights for long meetings, lunch breaks, and overnight
  • Powering down computers at the end of the day and before weekends
  • Unplugging equipment instead of using standby mode
  • Washing laundry in cold water (for dorms)
  • Switching to LED task lighting
  • Running dishwashers during off-peak hours
  • Working by daylight

Buckley recommends that you humanize energy consumption. Compare energy savings to home use, as most people have a basic understanding of what they pay for their residential utilities. If you’re tracking greenhouse gas emissions, translate carbon reduction into equivalent cars on the road.

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