BUFFALO, N.Y. – Question: Which University at Buffalo
residence hall, Fargo or Spaulding, consumed less electricity last
The answer, according to the new UB
Sustainability Dashboard, is Fargo. But that could change if
students in Spaulding turn off unused lights, power down their
laptops at night and find other ways to use less electricity.
A partnership between UB’s divisions of Finance and
Administration, and University Life and Services, the dashboard
tracks real-time electricity use in more than 145 buildings on
North and South campuses. It also uploads monthly data on water
consumption, solar-power generation, natural gas use and other
It is the latest in a series of new, eco-minded initiatives at
UB, and it is a key component to help the university achieve its
aggressive commitment to become climate neutral by 2030.
“Whether building the nation’s most publicly
accessible solar array or offering a bicycle sharing program, UB is
making steady progress toward achieving its promise to eliminate or
offset its carbon footprint,” said Dennis Black, vice
president for university life and services. “The
sustainability dashboard is geared toward influencing behavior. It
shows our students, faculty and staff how they can help UB become
A 2011 Stanford University study found that universities can
reduce their energy bills by 20 percent if they successfully
implement a program that centers on changing the
institution’s energy use culture.
Laura Hubbard, UB vice president for finance and administration,
said the dashboard is a practical and forward-leaning tool that
will help the university reduce its utility costs.
“The sustainability dashboard empowers students, faculty
and staff with real-time information that they can use to change
how much power a building consumes, or how much material is
recycled,” she said. “These are the types of activities
that will help UB achieve its goal of being a more efficient
The dashboard tracks the performance of everything from Alumni
Arena and the Statler Food Commissary to individual apartment
buildings within residential communities like Flint and South Lake
villages on North Campus. The scope of the project – more
than 145 buildings – makes it one of the most comprehensive
systems in the country, said Ryan McPherson, UB chief
One of the dashboard’s more interesting features is the
way energy use can be measured. It offers standard units of
measure, such as kilowatt hours and British thermal units, but it
also shows how they relate to money, food and other user-friendly
For example, Greiner Hall, UB’s six-story sophomore
dormitory, consumed 34,741 kilowatt hours of electricity last week.
Dashboard users can change that to a dollar amount ($5,559), carbon
dioxide emissions (31,510 pounds), the number of laptop hours
(1,216) or equivalent hamburgers consumed (9,165).
The idea, McPherson said, is to stimulate friendly competitions
among students, faculty and staff to be more sustainable. People
will then behave like that every day, which when combined, can have
a large impact university-wide, he said.
“Tracking kilowatt hours might not resonate with everyone.
These alternative comparisons help make the information
user-friendly and give people the ability to visualize their use of
electricity and other resources,” he said. “We want to
engage the UB community and inspire people to find ways to make the
university more sustainable.”
UB and National Grid are exploring a partnership to expand the
dashboard concept with interactive kiosks. Placed across the
university, the kiosks would provide another way to access
real-time information and help UB achieve its climate neutrality