N. Carolina Dorm Is Energy-Saving Champ

All-nighters by candlelight? Nah. It was a combination of improved operations and maintenance as well as outreach to residents that helped a University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill dorm reduce its energy use by 35.7 percent in one year. And that was enough to beat out teams from 13 other buildings and win the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) National Building Competition.

A Maryland Sears store slashed its energy consumption by 31.7 percent to finish in second place, and a JC Penny in California was third with energy savings of 28.4 percent.

image via Energystar.gov

In a press release, the EPA detailed the efforts made at the 850-student Morrrison Residence Hall on the North Carolina campus. Heating, ventilation, air conditioning and lighting improvements increased efficiency and maximized savings, but the commitment from residents was important, too. A computer touch-screen monitor in the lobby helped them track energy consumption; dorm floors held competitions to encourage turning off lights and computers; and elevators, bathrooms and common areas were adorned with reminders, the EPA said. The dorm saved $250,000 through its efforts, and reduced greenhouse-gas emissions by 730 metric tons.

The EPA used the competition to focus attention on its Energy Star program. The agency said that commercials buildings typically waste about 30 percent of their energy used and that the methods used in the competition “can be easily adopted by all types of facilities across the nation.”

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Pete Danko is a writer and editor based in Portland, Oregon. His work has appeared in Breaking Energy, National Geographic's Energy Blog, The New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle and elsewhere.

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