Three reasons Wofford College celebrates its sustainability successes (4/4)

July 19, 2018

By Rob Richards

We are excited to have Rob Richards (PE, CEM) as a contributing author for our blog. Rob most recently led the energy efficiency and sustainability efforts at Wofford College. Over a series of four blog posts, he will share with us his journey from the initial idea to measurable results.

Once Wofford College committed to using the BuildingOS platform to track energy and sustainability data across campus, we knew we needed to put in place a way to track the success of this rollout. The first step was to set a baseline so that we could measure the impact of this program later on.

While in the implementation stage for BuildingOS, we set a baseline energy consumption value for each building for the fiscal year ending June 2017. There was a limited amount of useful data available in the BuildingOS platform at that time; the majority of this data had to be manually gleaned from utility billing data or from data that had been compiled within the campus BMS system. (I can now say from personal experience it is much simpler and quicker to get meaningful data out of the BuildingOS platform than these other two tedious options.)

With our baseline in place, we set two key performance indicators:

  • Occupant engagement. The BuildingOS platform is being used by professors in several departments as a reference framework for student projects. I have used the platform in student lab classes and at sustainability symposiums for educational purposes. While engagement levels on our campus can always be improved, students have expressed great interest in the easily accessible data available through the platform.
  • Energy conservation measures. We’ve used the platform to identify and implement campus energy conservation measures, ranging from BMS schedule modifications to equipment replacement capital projects.

Measurable Impacts

Thanks to this baseline information, the College has been able to verify the impact of certain energy conservation measures:

1. We’re seeing more students embrace energy change. Wofford held its first Energy Challenge Week in April 2018. The competition between eight campus residence halls, which led up to Earth Day 2018, was advertised through the daily news campus email system and in several issues of the student newspaper. Using the BuildingOS Competition App, we tracked a 4.11% overall reduction in electrical energy consumption for the competition week across all eight residence buildings. The winning residence hall reduced its electrical energy use for the week by 13.3%. While these numbers are impressive, our team is looking at additional ways to foster engagement before the next competition.

2. Individual energy conservation measures are now easier to implement. By using the BuildingOS platform to demonstrate certain actions’ impact on energy consumption, we find it now takes less upfront time to “sell” any persons who might be affected on the reason for implementing these actions. For example, someone who enters a building set on the unoccupied temperature control range is less likely to call the Physical Plant stating there is a problem in the building because they now understand the reason for that temperature setting.

3. There is less apprehension regarding energy conservation measures in general. The College had tried to make changes over the years—especially with regards to unoccupied setback temperatures—with mixed success. Generally, one person’s complaint about the temperature would send the setpoints back to the occupied level and left there. By building on early successes detailed by the BuildingOS platform, there now seems to be more understanding of what the College is trying to do in its sustainability efforts. It is what I would call the early stages of a culture change.

Celebrating Success

The impact we’re seeing through this transparent use of data is a success worth celebrating. We share these impacts with Physical Plant staff as well as Wofford students and facility.

It’s particularly gratifying when a professor or student says they shared the Wofford College Energy and Sustainability Dashboard during an off-campus gathering. These gatherings are generally sustainability or campus operations related. When they share this, it tells me two things. First, they knew the Storyboard was available from them to view anywhere they had an Internet connection and a web-enabled device. Second, they were able to locate the Storyboard quickly through a simple web search.

We’re finding that our students are excited to share BuildingOS as an important example of the wonderful things that are happening at Wofford College.

Missed any of the earlier posts in the series? Don't fret:

Part 1 - One college shares its checklist for selecting an Energy Management Technology

Part 2 - Centralizing all building resource data across your portfolio

Part 3 - Keys for analyzing your building data to turn information into insight

Rob Richards

Rob launched and lead energy sustainability efforts at Wofford College as part of the college’s new sustainability initiative. He has an extensive background of project management and engineering at Snyder Electric Company.