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You Visit Tour. Webb Lion Fountain. June 1 2017. Photo David B. Hollingsworth

ODU Energy Challenge Wraps Up, Virginia House is Top ODU Residence

If interest from Old Dominion University residential students is any indication, the message about energy conservation has been received.

The first-ever "ODU Energy Challenge," a February competition among residence halls at ODU; and between Old Dominion, Virginia Commonwealth University and the University of Richmond, concluded on Saturday, Feb. 28.

At a wrap-up event on Tuesday, March 3, Virginia House was announced the winner of the three-week campus competition, reducing energy use in the residence hall by 8.8 percent from a baseline evaluation done in January.

That figure represents more than 4,300 kilowatt-hours, or enough energy to power a large home in Larchmont for a year.

"It really started with our support staff," said Katie Uttich, residence hall manager for Virginia House. "Just demonstrating the small things that can be done to save energy - turning off lights, unplugging appliances - and then staff modeling that behavior themselves, helped our students really get the message that this is about all of us."

The energy reduction was also achieved during a time interval which featured a generational cold snap and two large snowstorms.

"We actually increased the temperature in Virginia House because of the cold weather, so the energy reductions had to incorporate that," Uttich said.

In second and third place in the ODU Energy Challenge were France House and England House, with a 5.4 percent and 2.5 percent reduction in energy use, respectively.

Old Dominion finished second in the between-universities competition, trailing the University of Richmond.

Utility engineer Chad Luettel, ODU Energy Challenge organizer, said although ODU didn't win the overall competition, students impressively made 529 commitments to reducing energy consumption on the competition Building Dashboard site, far exceeding the goal of 400 commitments.

"I was very happy with how things went, for a first-time competition," Luettel said.

Throughout the three-week competition, part of an event known as the "Campus Conservation Nationals," students were encouraged to conserve energy by unplugging electronics or turning off power strips. The competition also aimed to educate students on using natural light whenever possible and making sure to turn electric lights off when leaving a room.

The focus of the competition was to raise awareness about the energy students consume every day and how electricity use affects the entire university. Luettel said the friendly competition, both among the residence halls and between the universities, is hoped to inspire students to continue to make energy conscious decisions.

"We're looking for feedback from students to determine how we as a staff can help them maintain this energy-conscious behavior," Luettel said.