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Six residence halls — Trinity, Muir, Sequoia, Fremont, Santa Lucia and Tenaya — are battling it out to see which building can reduce its energy and water consumption the most over a period of four weeks. The contest, which has been held annually since 2008, began on Feb. 2 and will finish on Feb. 28, and is held by University Housing and PowerSave Campus.
According to Ben Moez, a coordinator for the Living Learning Program, one of the changes for this year’s competition is the Building Dashboard, an energy monitoring system that’s connected to the residence halls.
The Dashboard’s website allows students to see, in real time, how much energy they are using, view historical comparisons and track their building’s energy use compared to other buildings.
“The winner is (the building with) the most overall reduction, so they’re being measured against themselves,” Moez said. “Right before they start the competition, we take some baseline readings of water and electricity use. Then, during the competition, people try to reduce their usage as compared to the baseline.”
The winning residence hall will have a polar bear adopted in their name through the World Wildlife Fund. In the past five years, Trinity has won four times, and Muir has won once.
“Trinity is usually one of the top competitors, because the energy needs of the College of Liberal Arts are a little bit lower than the energy needs of some of the more technical buildings,” Moez said.
Trinity, which has reduced its consumption by 193 kilo-watts, or 2.5 percent compared to their baseline, is the only residence hall that has successfully lowered energy use instead of raising it.
So far, Trinity has used the least amount of kilowatt-hours — around 7,900. Tenaya, hovering around 8,800 kilowatt-hours, has used the most.
The biggest offender in terms of reducing energy use by percentage is Santa Lucia, which has seen a 4.3 percent increase in consumption since the competition began.
Muir is in first place for water, having decreased its use by 1.2 percent. Santa Lucia is in last place, with a 7.1 percent increase.
“It could be that the baseline was taken during a lower academic stress period,” Moez said. “And now we’re getting into midterm season, and papers are due, and people are on the internet and computers more. I’m not really sure why there’d be an increase.”
Last year, Trinity won with an overall water reduction of 7.2 percent and an electricity reduction of 11.6 percent.
“I’ve definitely changed my habits since the energy competition began,” said Tori Mau, an anthropology and geography freshman who lives in Trinity. “I always make sure to turn off the bathroom light when I leave. I also make sure to turn off and unplug my fan and lamp when I’m not using them. I think it’s a great event.”
However, according to Maddy Utley, an English freshman who lives in Sequoia, not everyone is so dedicated.
“It’s really sad, because only five people in my hall care,” Utley said. “No one else is really doing anything differently. Neither am I, but that’s because I’m already energy-conscious.”
That may actually be the long-term goal. Ellen Chambers, a mechanical engineering senior who interns for PowerSave Campus, said the energy competitions are PowerSave Campus’ longest-running project, and new classes of freshmen improve upon their successors, permanently reducing their energy and water usage by 30 percent since 2008.
“One of the goals of the competition was to get people thinking about their energy and water use after, and maybe even before, the competition,” Moez said. “That leads to actual lifestyle changes. We want people to conserve energy over the course of their lives, not just during this four-week period.”