Saturday, January 3, 2009

Real Time Feedback Encourages Students to Save Energy

A group of students at Oberlin College did a study is to assess how socio-technical feedback, combined with incentives might encourage students to conserve resources. They set up an automated data monitoring system that provided dormitory residents with real-time web-based feedback on their energy and water use. In contrast, utility meters were manually read for 20 other dormitories, and data provided to those residents just once per week. For both groups, resource use was monitored during a baseline period and during a two week “dorm energy competition” during which feedback, education and conservation incentives were provided.
Overall, the introduction of feedback, education and incentives resulted in a 32 percent reduction in electricity use but only a 3 percent reduction in water use. Dormitories that received the real-time feedback were more effective at conservation, reducing their electricity consumption by 55 percent compared to 31 percent for dormitories that only received feedback once a week.

This group of students who did this study went on to create Lucid Design Group, a company that uses this technology for other colleges and universities as well as corporate campuses.


  • John E. Petersen, Vladislav Shunturov, Kathryn Janda, Gavin Platt and Kate Weinberger, “Dormitory residents reduce electricity consumption when exposed to real-time visual feedback and incentives,” International Journal of Sustainabilityin Higher Education, Vol. 8 No. 1, 2007, pp. 16-33.
  • "Energy Dashboards: Using Real-Time Feedback to Influence Behavior," Environmental Building News, Volume 17, Number 12 · December 2008.


Angelyn said...

The web series 'Real Savvy Families' has an episode featuring Emory University's Green dorms on Coca-Cola's 'Live Positively' site. It sounds like they use many of the same initiatives. Here's a link to the episode -

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