Energy audit aims to decrease energy usage connected to student tuition - Ka Leo O Hawaii: News

Energy audit aims to decrease energy usage connected to student tuition

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Posted: Wednesday, April 18, 2012 5:00 am

In the 2010-2011 fiscal year, $1,665 of every student’s tuition was spent on utility bills for the UH Mānoa campus. This number is projected to be $2,265 per student for the 2011-2012 fiscal year.

Continuing increases in student tuition are, in part, connected to the rising energy costs on campus, and to combat this problem, Marvin Uehara and his team are currently conducting an energy audit on the Environmental Center, a portable building behind Kuykendall Hall.

“By realizing that energy plays a critical role in sustainability efforts, I decided to engage in an energy-efficient project on campus,” said Uehara, a graduate student in public administration. The funding for the project is from the Graduate Student Organization’s Campus Greening Initiative, which focuses on sustainability projects.

The goal of the audit is to measure the amount of monetary savings from behavior changes and retrofits to determine what changes are most cost effective. There will be four stages to the project, which include measuring high and low energy usage behavior, lighting retrofits and a reflective roof coating.  

According to Joshua Taitano, an undergraduate in sustainability studies helping with the project, preliminary comparisons of the high-usage data to the low-usage behavior data showed an energy consumption reduction of two-thirds, which saved approximately $350 in one month. But the data is still being collected and analyzed.

“My hypothesis is that portable building residents can change their behavior, save on electricity and still enjoy a comfortable working place,” said Uehara.

Taitano also pointed out that “education and behavior modifications transcend beyond energy to other aspects, such as food choices, purchases and vehicle use.”

The $350 the energy audit saved in a month seems quite small compared to the $26 million that UH Mānoa spent on utility costs in the 2010-2011 academic year. Of that money, $21 million was spent solely on electricity.         

However, Uehara explained that “the project will have a significant impact on campus [energy] savings if the lessons learned and the best practices of the project are replicated in every portable building on campus and, who knows, maybe the UH System and the state.”

To find out more about this project or to get involved, come to the Energy Audit  Booth on Earth Day, April 22, from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. on Legacy Walkway.

Stage one: Measuring high usage behavior - A/C, lights, and electronics are turned on

Stage two: Measuring behavior changes - opening windows instead of A/C, using only natural light and turning off electronics when not in use

Stage three: Installing and measuring high efficiency light bulbs, motion detectors

Stage four: Installing and measuring reflective roof coating