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Carnegie Mellon U Team Develops Plug Load Monitoring Dashboard

A team at Carnegie Mellon University's (CMU) School of Architecture has developed a dashboard designed to help users see and reduce how much energy they use at work.

The Intelligent Dashboard for Occupants, developed by Doctoral Student Ray Yun, monitors plug load, which "refers to how many things are actually plugged into outlets at your desk and, as a result, use energy," according to a CMU news release. It also provides recommendations to reduce energy usage and tools to regulate loads at each desk.

"Buildings consume about 40 percent of all energy used in the U.S. and about 70 percent of the nation's electricity," said Vivian Loftness, a team member and professor and former head of the School of Architecture, in a prepared statement. "As a nation, we have a huge obligation to clean up our act. So let's start by asking ourselves what can we do without changing our quality of life. The Intelligent Dashboard is about empowering the building's occupants to achieve positive change."

In an effort to test different interfaces for the tool, Yun's team divided 80 office workers into four groups for a six-week experiment.

"Group A served as the control group and was just monitored," according to information released by the school. "Group B participants could see their ongoing energy usage on a dashboard but had no online control ability. Group C could see their energy use and had the ability to control their usage online, while Group D was given energy use monitors, online controls and the ability to use their work schedule on a calendar to control unnecessary plug loads."

Group A reduced their consumption by 3.6 percent, Group B by 9 percent, Group C by 20.2 percent and Group D reduced their consumption by 35.4 percent.

"What I am most proud of is helping people to see energy saving opportunities," Yun said, in a prepared statement. "Office workers have no big incentive to put any effort into conserving energy at work, since they don't pay the bills. Without providing rewards or penalties or forcing workers to use our dashboard, we have successfully assisted them in voluntarily acting on behalf of the environment."

Other team members include Azizan Aziz, Bertrand Lasternas, Chenlu Zhang and Yunjeong Mo from the School of Architecture, and Jie Zhao, and Peter Scupelli of the School of Design.

About the Author

Joshua Bolkan is the multimedia editor for Campus Technology and THE Journal. He can be reached at jbolkan@1105media.com.

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