What Makes Lab Energy Dashboards Work?

Christine Alencar, University of Virginia
Quentin Gilly, Harvard University

Energy dashboards are a common and growing engagement tool for educating building occupants about building energy use. Recently, the University of Virginia has seen success in their Energy Impact Tracker, a screen installed in the lobby of a campus research building depicting a live feed of chemical fume hood sash positions throughout the building, and the resulting greenhouse gas emissions. The month following installation and community outreach saw a 49% improvement in average sash position, resulting in safer and more energy efficient labs. Longer running chemical fume hood outreach programs, such as Harvard's 12-year 'Shut the Sash' competitions, have similarly demonstrated the success of targeted chemical fume hood outreach for energy savings. What do these two programs, old and new, have in common, and what can they teach us about dashboards and the importance of trending and submetering as a means for occupant engagement? Implementing dashboards can effectively engage viewers and building occupants, but sometimes they introduce complications or simply become ignored pieces of 'furniture'. Managing expectations, data collection and analysis, and leveraging results from these initiatives is a growing need in sustainability as these methods become more widespread. Together, Harvard and UVA Green Labs explore how dashboards can be more effective in the future of sustainability outreach, and provide examples of how to effectively convey information through dashboards that catalyze change in behavior.

Learning Objectives

  • Attendees will learn how dashboards and visual displays pertaining to laboratory sustainability have been an effective way to engage researcher community, shifting awareness to action, using "Shut the Sash" as the primary case study;
  • Attendees will grasp the importance of managing expectations surrounding dashboards. The implementation of management of software, hardware, submeters, and other components of successful dashboards require constant attention;
  • Attendees will identify successful strategies in working with and engaging a wide variety of campus stakeholders involved in the implementation and management of a dashboard, and what can (or should) be expected from a dashboard's audience; and
  • Attendees will investigate current gaps in the "dashboard market" and explore potential opportunities for better dashboards or engagement strategies that help to connect the researcher community to the buildings in which they work.


Christine is the Green Labs Outreach and Engagement Specialist at the University of Virginia. With eight years of research experience in molecular biology and chemical analysis, she communicates the benefits of sustainable lab operations to the campus research community, helping labs lower their carbon footprint, increase user safety, and improve protocol efficiency.

Quentin is the Sustainable Labs Manager at the Harvard University Office for Sustainability. His primary role is to find new ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions generated from the lab sector, through occupant engagement and building upgrades. Before moving to the sustainability field, Quentin worked for a number of years as a lab manager and automation specialist at Harvard Medical School.


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