November 2011

Innovations in Comfort, Efficiency, and Safety Solutions.

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Educating and Engaging Occupants on Energy Efficiency
Get Your Occupants on Board

Sarah Erdman
Marketing Director
QA Graphics

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Energy management remains a hot topic. The spotlight on energy efficiency continues to increase globally, according to the 2011 Energy Efficiency Indicator1, a survey that has studied the interest in energy efficiency over the past five years.  The study tracked almost 4,000 global executives and building owners throughout North America, who are responsible for energy management and investment decisions in commercial and public-sector buildings.  It was found that energy cost savings and government incentives are the top reasons for pursuing energy efficiency, and public image and the pursuit of green buildings is another leading factor, an interest that doubled in just the last year.  Of those surveyed, an average of 8.9 percent have made energy efficiency improvements in the last year, with educating occupants being a frequent initiative, along with common building improvements like lighting and HVAC changes.

To maintain an efficient building, it’s important that management involve the occupants.  Informing occupants of the initiatives a facility has in place, and educating them on measures that they too can follow to be more energy efficient can help ensure the building operates efficiently.   At QA Graphics, we have been involved in the building controls industry since 2006 and anticipate that tracking resource use will soon be commonplace in the commercial and public sector as well as at home.  New ways of helping individuals to be aware of their energy usage continue to be made available, like Google’s PowerMeter, which helps people track energy use at home, and a new social energy app scheduled to be launched early next year by Opower and Facebook, that will allow users to compare their home energy usage with that of friends’ online.  

Energy Education DashboardWe work with a number of organizations to help raise energy awareness and promote efficiency through the use of energy education dashboards.    Something we are working to clearly define the difference between the common industry term, energy dashboard, and an energy education dashboard.    In our experiences, we have found that energy dashboards are used for summaries of important energy metrics within a facility.  These dashboards are very useful, but also very technical. To share this information with occupants and the public, the information must be easier to understand and have an educational focus.

An energy education dashboard compliments an existing building automation system.  It’s an interactive application that illustrates building performance in a simpler manner and provides education about efficient resource use and the initiatives an organization has in place.   Typically utilized in a building lobby or common area, such solutions are very social, engaging viewers as they pass by.   Energy education dashboards serve as a positive marketing solution for organizations, allowing them to not only share their sustainable initiatives with occupants and the community, but educate on how everyone can help with energy efficiency. This is something that is supported by a number of green building certification programs; organizations commonly receive credit for implementing such solutions.

Occupants can learn about energy saving features in place, as well as how they can help conserve resources.  Any data being monitored can be displayed to provide direct feedback on how the building is operating.  Commonly, a variety of other interactive features are also used to engage occupants.   For example, a leaderboard can compare energy data demand among multiple buildings or floors within a building, providing a social competition that encourages occupants to make energy conscious decisions. Other features include demonstrations of how building features actually work, LEED checklists that explain what was done to achieve the green building certification, quizzes that allow viewers to test their ‘green’ knowledge, and conversions that make energy efficiency applicable to our daily lives, like X kilowatt hours saved is equivalent to X loads of laundry dried, or how many homes could be powered.  Education like this provides a creative way to address sustainability, especially for younger audiences.


In our experience, energy education dashboards are highly used in the education sector to create environmental awareness among the next generation.  An example of a school that we recently worked with is Nichols School, a fifth through twelfth-grade school in Buffalo, New York.  Nichols has a comprehensive approach to promote campus sustainability, and their energy education dashboard serves as another means to encourage environmental awareness. 

Displayed in the math and science building, students can view energy demand for each of the six buildings on campus, along with information about green features in place, educational demonstrations, an interactive quiz, and a leaderboard that keeps students excited about reviewing energy data. The leaderboard was used last Earth Day as part of a campus-wide event, where for half the  school day, everyone on campus was encouraged to turn off lights, projectors, and anything else they could do to lower electrical consumption. Then with the use of their energy education dashboard, they reviewed the energy demand among the six buildings and calculated the percentage drop from a base value for each building.  This was a creative and memorable way to get the entire school involved, and the campus saw an average drop in energy use of 14 percent.

Nichols also plans to use the energy education dashboard to compliment the school’s curriculum plans.   The building data information is downloadable, so teachers can use the information in the classroom.  Faculty is excited to have authentic data because of the relevancy it offers students; they can explore why buildings with science and technology classes use more energy, consider the distribution of different heating and cooling systems throughout the buildings on campus, and speculate reasons for peak times and days for usage.  The live application of Nichol’s energy education dashboard may be viewed at

Natural Gas Usage

This is just one example of how an organization has used building performance data to engage and educate occupants as part of an organization’s overall energy efficiency initiatives.   There are countless ways to engage audiences of all ages, and QA Graphics has found that educating through innovative and creative solutions is a very memorable way to address energy efficiency. The hope is that by showing occupants what’s going on in their building, they will be motivated to make environmentally conscious decisions. 

QA Graphics works with organizations all over North America providing their solution, the Energy Efficiency Education DashboardŽ, to help educate about building efficiency. For more information, visit or come see us at the upcoming AHR EXPO in Chicago (booth #3729). 

1 2011 Energy Efficiency Indicator: Global Results, June 2011, Institute for Building Efficiency, an initiative of Johnson Controls, Inc.,  in partnership with the International Facility Management Association, and the Urban Land Institute.


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