New Website, ‘Building Dashboard’ Will Monitor Campus Sustainability

Building Dashboard, a Cornell website that provides “real-time utility data” on campus buildings, has proven to be an effective tool for sustainability-directed efforts, according to students...

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By Emma Quigley via the Cornell Daily Sun, 10/30/13

Building Dashboard, a Cornell website that provides “real-time utility data” on campus buildings, has proven to be an effective tool for sustainability-directed efforts, according to students.

The website — which includes data on electricity, heating and cooling for 50 campus buildings — was created by Lanny Joyce, director of Energy Management, and Erin Moore, outreach coordinator for Energy Management, according to a University press release. Next fiscal year, the University aims to track the energy usage of 97 campus buildings, according to the press release.

The site features bar charts depicting the consumption and reduction efforts of individual residence halls and academic facilities at the University. It also displays badge and trophy icons next to the reduction percentages to rank the efforts of the buildings.

“Being able to see energy-use data displayed in colorful bar graphs with different conversion features [for dollars and CO2] makes the numbers feel more real,” said Alexa Bakker ’15, outreach coordinator for Take Back the Tap. “[Building Dashboard] is a really effective tool for illustrating that our actions can have a significant effect on campus energy use.”

The Dashboard has been used in sustainability competitions throughout campus such as “Think Big, Live Green,” an energy and waste reduction campaign that will take place among the buildings in the Engineering Quad, according to the press release.

The Dashboard was also instrumental in the Campus Conservation Nationals competition early this year, in which residence halls competed to reduce electricity and water consumption, according to Bakker.

The website’s visuals “added an element of healthy competition,” said Bakker, who participated in the competition while living in the Ecology House. “We witnessed a 12.7-percent reduction in energy use for our building after only a few weeks.”

The site’s interactive components are viewed as “motivational” and as “providing transparency” in the area of sustainability, according to Breann Liebermann ’14, president of Take Back the Tap.

On its homepage, the Building Dashboard also displays its live Twitter feed, as well as a live discussion board asking visitors to share how they reduce their carbon footprints. Responses feature reports of efforts on behalf of the Cornell community to “walk or ride the bus to class,” as well as “urg[ing] tenants to use composting bins.”

As of Tuesday, the Twitter account had 1,502 followers. Its tweets promote participation in Cornell and Ithaca community events such as “Campus Sustainability Day,” “GreenStar Community Projects” and a forum “about coordinated deer management within Tompkins County.”

But spreading information to the entire campus community is still a challenge, according to Alicia Leitgeb ’14, coordinator for Sustainability Hub.

Some students have discussed the Dashboard in some of their Cornell classes, according to Leitgeb, who learned about the site in one of her courses.

“I’m not sure that it will reach students outside of an academic setting,” Leitgeb said. “While [Building Dashboard] might catch the attention of students in environmental science, the average history major probably wouldn’t give it a second thought.”

Views expressed in News posts may not be those of Cornell University. No endorsement is implied.