The residents of Coles Tower “did it in the dark” best during the month of November, winning the 11th Annual Energy Savings Competition by reducing their energy use by 29.8 percent.

Twenty residences competed in the competition, including every first year brick and College House. The percent decrease in total energy use, based on electricity and heating,  was measured in every residence hall against a previously recorded consumption standard. 

Overall, the campus saved 16,522 kilowatt-hours of electricity, which amounts to a reduction of  12,546 pounds of carbon dioxide.

“The competition has been based on a percentage improvement over a period of time that we monitor before the competition begins,” said Keisha Payson, the College’s sustainability coordinator. “It’s hard to come up with the fairest comparison, so looking at people’s effort in wanting to improve and do differently is something that we value, but can’t really measure.” 

Helmreich House came in second with a 28 percent reduction, followed by Baxter House with a 17.5 percent decrease. Moore Hall placed first among first-year bricks with a 14.2 percent reduction. Helmreich House and Maine Hall won the prize for biggest reduction between a College House and its affiliate brick.

 “We have a lot of buildings that are doing well,” Payson said. “This is a time of year when it’s darker than the comparison time and it’s in general colder. The fact that all these buildings are doing better says something.”

Some buildings fared worse, however. Howell House, which finished last in the competition, saw a nearly 24.4 percent increase in energy consumption during the month of October. Payson offered a possible explanation for its poor performance, saying that some residences have certain disadvantages. 

“The heating system is a place that we’re seeing some inequities,” said Payson. “Poor Howell House—we wonder, ‘why does Howell House always come in last?’ It turns out that it has something to do with the heat pumps in their building.”

Payson said a request will be made to fix these heat pumps.

Some students suggested that because the competition focuses on reductions in energy use, it does not accurately represent each residence hall’s commitment to saving energy.

“It rewards one month of good deeds when a place like Reed House might have been committed to the environmental cause all along,” said Reed House resident Peter Nauffts ’15.

Reed House used 2,595 kilowatt-hours of electricity during October—less energy than every other residence hall in the competition. However, Reed used similarly low amounts of energy in preceding months, so it only managed a 2.8 percent reduction.

The results of the competition were tracked through a website called Building Dashboard, which used devices stored in each of the residences to measure energy usage on a minute by minute basis.

“We used to do it so that the electric shop would have to go out and read the meters on the buildings, so we’d only be able to provide information once in the middle and once at the end,” Payson said.  “A few years back, we got meters that were installed in the buildings that allowed us to use the Building Dashboard and students get real time feedback, at any time, and see how their building is doing in the competition.”

Andrew Cushing ’12, Bowdoin’s sustainability outreach coordinator, worked with Eco-Reps—one from each first-year brick and College House—to organize the energy competition. Cushing and Payson hope students will continue the energy-saving habits they developed during the competition.
 “While the competition is something that’s fun and that’s a fun way to engage people in the issue, I hope that people start to realize that it’s part of a bigger, more important issue,” said Payson.