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New Dartmouth Dorm Cluster Broadcasts Energy Usage to Students

Dartmouth College's recently completed McLaughlin Cluster residence halls have been recognized by the United States Green Building Council for its environmental sustainability, winning Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design ( LEED ) gold certifications. The recognition makes the fifth LEED certification for Dartmouth buildings in four months. LEED certifications were recently awarded to two other residence halls as well as two academic facilities.

The gold certification for the McLaughlin Cluster was based on achievement in five categories: sustainability of the site, water efficiency, energy and atmosphere, materials and resources and indoor environmental quality. The buildings include features such as high-efficiency windows, radiant heating and cooling floors and heat recovery systems in the ventilation. The buildings also received credits for having 50 percent of their electricity supplied by renewable power sources.

The McLaughlin Cluster is also home to the pilot program Green Lite Dartmouth. The program provides student residents in certain sections of the dorm with real-time feedback on how much electricity the dorm is using via displays in the common spaces. The displays, broadcast on low-energy monitors, show an animated polar bear at various levels of comfort or distress, depending on the amount of energy being used in the building. Low energy use equals a happy, healthy polar bear. High usage results in the bear suffering the effects of global warming. The Green Lite team hopes to learn how students will modify their energy usage when they can see its real-time effect, and whether that knowledge would encourage them to incorporate simple energy-saving strategies into their day-to-day routines.

The McLaughlin Cluster dorms were chosen for the pilot program in part because of their built-in efficiency, said Green Lite advisor Lorie Loeb, co-director of the digital arts minor and research assistant professor of computer science. "We can build the most efficient building in the world, but if people fill them with energy-hogging appliances or waste energy while living in the building, the environment still loses," she said, adding, "It is simple and easy to change our behavior in order to help save the environment - sometimes all we need is some information and feedback to understand the results of each action we take."

"Achieving the gold certification for this and other recent construction reflects Dartmouth's broader commitment to energy efficiency and green technology," said Associate Provost Mary Gorman. "Dartmouth is building green, and renovating green, both because it supports the institutional goal of sustainability and because it serves the mission of educating our community about the ways we can protect and conserve our resources."

The McLaughlin Cluster was completed in fall 2006 and houses 342 students.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a former senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning.

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