Oct. 23, 2013

'Building Dashboard' website conveys real-time energy use

Erin Moore and Lanny Joyce
Robert Barker/University Photography
Lanny Joyce, left, and Erin Moore and have created Cornell's Building Dashboard, which provides energy data on 50 campus buildings.

Transparent is the new green.

Cornell’s new Building Dashboard website provides raw, real-time energy data – in a clear, unobstructed way – to educate the community with a goal to reduce campus energy consumption and step toward a smaller carbon footprint.

The interactive dashboard includes data on electricity, heating and cooling for 50 campus buildings, and that number is expected to grow to 97 next fiscal year.

“The data isn’t scrubbed with digital detergent. This is the real deal. If you want to know – right now – how much power Bard Hall or Day Hall or other buildings use, this up-to-the-minute website is for you,” says Erin Moore, Cornell’s energy outreach coordinator and manager of this Web project.

While anyone can use Cornell’s Building Dashboard, students, faculty and staff on the Engineering Quad can track energy use for the forthcoming “Think Big, Live Green” Energy Smackdown contest – starting this November – among buildings in the College of Engineering. The contest will focus on reducing plug load, turning off lights and finding new ways to save electricity. It runs through winter break.

The Building Dashboard features comparative widgets, a weather widget, sustainability videos, tabs for electricity comparisons, energy conservation tips, campus sustainability links, social media components, interactive discussions and a “click to commit” section dedicated to the Cornell community.

Information is power, Moore explains: “Real-time feedback can drive energy conservation in campus buildings and improve operational efficiency. This the first time that building energy usage is publicly available to the Cornell community – using a system that is easy to understand and fun to use,” she says.

Building Dashboard breaks down the electricity, heating and cooling data into measureable units, carbon dioxide outputs and money spent on energy. For example, one day in mid-October, Bard Hall on the Engineering Quad used 2,529 kilowatt-hours of electricity. For the academic year, so far by mid-October, Building Dashboard users can learn that Bard Hall will have used about $32,000 in electricity with an equivalent emission of nearly 182,000 pounds of carbon dioxide.

In another example, website viewers can see the photovoltaic production at Day Hall – which has solar panels on the roof – by day, week, month or year. Through a bar graph, Web viewers will understand how clouds hinder solar power production, while on sunny days it soars.

Beyond the energy facts, education and social media components are woven into the website. “The Building Dashboard is connected to social media and enables people to view, compare and share energy use information on the Web,” Moore says. “People are able to commit to energy-saving actions and participate in campuswide competitions that help reinforce specific actions on campus. When people save energy – as a collective – it impacts building energy usage and that is reflected on the Building Dashboard.”

To encourage Building Dashboard visitors, the Cornell community can post a comment on the site’s discussion widget by Oct. 24. Participants are automatically entered in a prize raffle, and the comments post to Facebook.

Cornell commissioned Lucid Design Group, Oakland, Calif., to create the dashboard. Moore and Lanny Joyce, Cornell’s director of energy management, ensures the data is available and accurate, and they chose the initial buildings to highlight and the dashboard’s key components.