ACU Energy Conservation Program Inspires Honors College Thesis
Discovering her alma mater had cut expected energy use by a quarter inspired an Abilene Christian University student to delve into whether her fellow students were assisting in the efforts.
Abilene Christian University partnered with Cenergistic in 2014 with to save energy costs, lower energy consumption, reduce its carbon footprint and improve classroom comfort. The successful energy conservation program has so far delivered 28 percent lower energy consumption per square foot, reduced CO2 emissions equal to 5,625 home’s energy use over one year and provided students with the classroom comfort needed to reach their fullest potential.
ACU Senior Kaitlyn Saucedo chose the program for her Honors College thesis, “Environmental Audit of Abilene Christian University Dormitories.”
Kaitlyn’s analyzed dormitory energy data provided by Cenergistic’s on-site Energy Specialist James Parker, who tracks energy consumption using energy-accounting software. The software compares current energy use to a baseline period and calculates the amount of energy used. It adjusts for the weather, equipment changes and variations in building use, according to industry standards. By analyzing consumption and energy use patterns for each meter in each building, the software helps the identify and correct areas that need immediate attention.
Energy consumption data for individual dormitories enabled Kaitlyn to measure which dorms were consuming the greatest amount of energy, water and resources per student. She set out to determine whether all dormitories’ consumption rates are the same or if any consumed more resources than others.
Because Cenergistic monitors and controls ACU’s heating and cooling systems, she knew the biggest variable affecting consumption rates was student behavior. She also noted ACU students pay a set fee for room and board, which results in a lack of awareness about individual energy and water consumption.
Kaitlyn considered several options to reduce dormitory energy consumption, including knocking down inefficient dorms, only housing students in the most efficient dorms, spending millions to connect all dorms to the central plant, or empowering students to turn off the lights and conserve water.
After speaking with James and fellow students, Kaitlyn theorizes that by educating students, encouraging them to turn off lights and empowering them to enact change, the change would happen. In her Honors Thesis she suggests five practical steps to influence student behavior and empower students to conserve energy:
- Establish an Office of Sustainability to provide long-term oversight and leadership of the effort.
- Recruit Residence Hall Directors and Resident Assistants to help promote the Office of Sustainability and be advocates for sustainability efforts.
- Educate students about sustainability and practical ways to reduce consumption within dormitories during the school’s orientation week for new students. Post visual reminders, posters and flyers around the dorms.
- Give 60 percent of the money saved from decreased consumption to a local charity chosen by the students and presented in their names.
- Allocate 40 percent of the money saved from decreasing consumption to fund efficiency improvements at current dorms and to support the Office of Sustainability.
Through ACU’s partnership with Cenergistic, the university’s energy consumption and carbon footprint are lower and classroom comfort is optimized for students like Kaitlyn. Her academic story demonstrates how ACU’s energy conservation program inspires the next generation to create greater awareness about energy conservation, driving a more sustainability-focused culture.
Kaitlyn Saucedo walked across the stage at Abilene Christian University’s Moody Coliseum in May 2019, receiving a Bachelor of Science in Environmental Science and leaving behind an important lesson in creating a more sustainable future. Cenergistic leadership also recognized Kaitlyn for her conservation-focused thesis with a “Sustainable Superstar” award at its Dallas headquarters.
Since 1986 Cenergistic has helped 1,450+ K-12 districts, institutions of higher education, governments and health care facilities find $5.4 billion and counting in hidden electricity, natural gas and water savings by applying our advanced software platform and sustainability-as-a-service solutions. Organization leaders can reduce utility spending by 20–30 percent annually with no capital investment while improving the comfort and quality of building environments. For more than a decade, Cenergistic has been recognized by the Environmental Protection Agency as ENERGY STAR® Partner of the Year or Partner of the Year – Sustained Excellence. To learn more, visit www.cenergistic.com.