Last week I visited the CUSTOMER project at Coventry University. CUSTOMER stands for Coventry University STudents’ Optimisation and Management of Energy Resources and is one of the projects funded under the JISC Greening ICT Programme.
The rationale for the project is that residential energy use is accounting for just over 21% of the total energy use and CO2 emissions of the university (2008-09) HEFCE return). As with most universities, Coventry charges its students a flat fee to cover their rent and utility charges in its halls of residence, with a consequent lack of any financial or other incentives for students to be careful about this energy use. Indeed, it has not been possible for students to even know how much gas and electricity they and their fellow students were using.
CUSTOMER will try and see if there are ways to change this. They will do this by firstly installing meters for both electricity and gas (where appropriate) in a number of pairs of matched floors or units in three different halls of residence. The matched pairs are to allow for a control group. The three different sites have been chosen to represent a range of ages and types of student accommodation, from a 1970s tower block with a dining room for breakfast and dinner through a modern conversion of the old central post office in Coventry city centre to a part of the main residence which were built on the old Singer car factory site in the 1990s. Added to these are a number of individual houses that the university owns and rents to students.
The project will then see how best to engage with the students and connect them to the information that the meters will be producing. Various options are being explored, including working the university’s Serious Games Institute to produced simulations and feedback type interfaces that will allow students to investigate the impact of their behaviour change.
The project is overseen by the Pro-Vice Chancellor for Planning & Resource (Professor David Souter) and is a good example of cross-institutional working with involvement from IT services, Estates, Student Services, the Students Union, as well as academics from the Engineering & Computing Faculty and the Serious Games Institute.
For more information see the project blog:
and the details of the project plan etc: