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Showcase Dorm Room Guide

Creating an ENERGY STAR Showcase Dorm Room

Colleges and universities are uniquely positioned to introduce awareness of ENERGY STAR into a student’s first experience of furnishing his or her own “home.” A creative approach to encourage residents in student housing to use ENERGY STAR products is to create an ENERGY STAR Showcase Dorm Room. Its first audience is students, but it also captures the attention of anyone interested in college life. Once it’s set up, you have any easy education tool for an entire academic year (unlike an event, which is a one-time education and publicity opportunity.) The room by itself saves a moderate amount of electricity, but the project’s emphasis is the “ripple effect” of how much the school could save if every dorm room on campus used ENERGY STAR products.


The project has two objectives: 1) to demonstrate the energy savings potential of ENERGY STAR labeled products in a dorm room setting, and 2) to educate your staff, students, alumni, other universities, and the general public on the what, where, and how of purchasing ENERGY STAR labeled products.

This document serves as a “how-to” guide to create your own Showcase Dorm Room or to showcase another space type (e.g., staff office). This “event-in-a-box” will draw on Tulane University’s experience of creating the first Showcase Dorm Room.

Tulane’s Experience

Tulane Dorm Room

During its Homecoming and Parents Weekend in October 2001, Tulane unveiled the first ENERGY STAR showcase dorm room, featuring ENERGY STAR labeled lighting, office equipment, and home electronics. Three sophomores resided in the two-bedroom suite, and two ran the demonstration project as work-study positions. The students have given over 100 tours of their space, with their guests including the University President, Senior Vice President for Planning and Administration, the CFO, Director of Housing and Residence Life. They have been written up in the campus newspaper, and even have their own web page: http://green.tulane.edu/energysmart/EnergySmart.html.

The students estimated that their Showcase Dorm Room will save about $130 over the course of the school year. If every one of the 1,708 Tulane dorm rooms used ENERGY STAR products, they estimated Tulane would save over $200,000. This has been such a successful project that the school is having a contest to determine next year’s showcase. The students found this project to be more work than they had originally anticipated, but a much more powerful educational tool than they had imagined. As a result, Tulane is planning on hosting another showcase dorm room for the 2002–2003 school year.

Making It Happen and Finding What You Will Need

1. Select a Project Coordinator

The project first needs to have a project organizer, someone on the faculty or staff who will help the students run the project and handle any administrative hurdles. In the case of Tulane, this was Liz Davey, Environmental Coordinator.

2. Solicit Administrative Support

As the project organizer, you should get the blessing of your Residence Life Program and/or Dean of Students before you begin, and be sensitive to security concerns raised by inviting outsiders into residence halls. It is also a good idea to run this by your Public Relations Department to gauge their interest in promoting the project in student, alumni, and higher education publications.

3. Find the Students and the Room

You can begin with a known core group of active, committed students, solicit interest through the campus paper, or stage a lottery. You can decide to use the room that the selected students have secured for the upcoming year or you can pre-select a room or apartment for the students to reside in. When you are considering which room to use, consider whether the room is individually metered. For information on metering, see “Metering and Retrofits.”

For the first showcase dorm room, Tulane opted to use students heavily involved in the environmental club and working in the environmental affairs office. Since the students had already secured a suite on campus, they decided to use that room as the showcase room. With the 2001-2002 school year winding down, Tulane is planning on staging a lottery to find students for the upcoming school year. They are considering whether to use the same dorm room or pre-select a room in which the lottery winners will reside.

4. Identify Which Products to Showcase

To figure out which products carry the ENERGY STAR label, visit www.energystar.gov. You will find which manufacturers make ENERGY STAR labeled products and which of their products bear the ENERGY STAR label. You will also find savings calculators to help you estimate energy savings.

Key ENERGY STAR labeled products for effective tours include:

  • office equipment*: computers, monitors, printers
  • lighting: desk lamps, compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs), torchieres, ceiling fixtures**
  • home electronics: televisions, VCRs or DVD players, stereos, clock radios
  • appliances***: refrigerators, dishwashers, clothes washers
  • heating and cooling: ceiling fans**
  • any other ENERGY STAR labeled product that would be suitable to showcase

* If you plan on showcasing a staff office, you can showcase additional office equipment, including fax machines, copiers, and multi-function devices.

** These products are suggested if you plan on retrofitting the room.

*** These products are suggested if you plan on using an apartment.

Tulane showcased the following ENERGY STAR labeled products: computers, monitors, printers, TV/VCR combination unit, torchieres, CFLs, desk lamps, clock radio, and stereos. Since ENERGY STAR does not currently label compact refrigerators, Tulane opted to showcase the most energy-efficient model they could find.

The ENERGY STAR Web site (www.energystar.gov) and/or product manufacturers vendors can provide information on the energy savings of ENERGY STAR labeled products as well as any special power management features, such as “sleep mode” on office equipment and home electronics.

5. Solicit Sponsors (optional)

Many utilities and some states have funds to promote energy efficiency. ENERGY STAR can provide you with a list of ENERGY STAR partner manufacturers and vendors that you can contact to see if they are interested in showcasing their products in exchange for publicity. Don’t forget to talk to the managers of the campus bookstore to see if they would be interested in showcasing ENERGY STAR labeled products! Tulane received support from several ENERGY STAR manufacturers and their local utility, Entergy.

Metering and Retrofits (optional)

6. Meter the room (optional)

It may be possible to meter the space to get some specific measures of the energy saved by your showcase dorm room. This allows you to more accurately estimate the savings if every dorm room on campus used ENERGY STAR products. Talk with your Housing and Facilities departments about whether they individually meter your school’s dorm rooms or apartments. If they don’t, ENERGY STAR and/or the product manufacturers can provide information on the energy savings of ENERGY STAR labeled products to help you estimate the room’s savings.

In the case of Tulane, the room they had selected was not individually metered. The students estimated that their room would save about $130 over the course of a nine-month school year. If every one of the 1,708 Tulane dorm rooms used ENERGY STAR products, they estimated Tulane would save over $200,000. The students estimated the savings for the room by determining the aggregated difference in energy use between ENERGY STAR labeled and conventional products over a nine-month school year. Energy use was determined by each product’s wattage while on or in sleep mode multiplied by the estimated hours of use each product was on or in sleep mode multiplied by Tulane’s electricity rate of 6.5 cents per kWh. Product energy use = (Wattage while on/1000)x(hours on)x(30 days)x(9 months)x($.065/kWh) + (Wattage while in sleep mode/1000)x(hours in sleep mode)x(30 days)x(9 months)x($.065/kWh). The product’s hours of use was based on a previous campus survey. These estimates are conservative so as not to overestimate savings.

7. Retrofit the room with additional ENERGY STARproducts (optional)

Consider retrofitting of the room’s light fixtures and fans to further emphasize the room’s energy savings. Such a retrofit may not be an option for everyone, so talk with your Housing and Facilities departments.

Creating a Campaign Around It

8. Create a Buzz On Campus

Start with a Grand Opening. Invite school officials and reporters from your school and local papers, and create a buzz! Take lots of pictures! Tulane unveiled their room during Homecoming Weekend and held a ribbon cutting.

To keep the buzz alive, invite faculty and key administrators, gave them a tour, ask for their suggestions in educating people or incorporating consideration of ENERGY STAR into purchasing decisions, and then follow up on their suggestions. Be sure to talk to the managers of the campus bookstore, if they offer lamps and appliances. They might wish to showcase products in the room!

8. Promote the Room in Your School and Outside Publications

Work with your Public Relations department to promote the room. At Tulane, articles appeared in the student and alumni magazines as well as in a football game program. The students also produced an online brochure discussing their experiences living in the room and their efforts to reduce their personal energy consumption: http://green.tulane.edu/energysmart/EnergySmart.html.

Submit articles to energy efficiency- and higher education-specific publications. ENERGY STAR promoted the project in ENERGY STAR News, in a monthly newsletter to ENERGY STAR higher education partners, and in the January 2001 Home Electronics Show.

Beyond the Showcase Dorm Room

9. Leverage the room to promote other energy efficiency projects

Leverage the attention you are receiving from the Showcase Dorm Room to promote other energy efficiency measures. ENERGY STAR has a variety of ways schools can save energy. For more information, visit www.energystar.gov and click “For Schools.”

The Tulane students leveraged the showcase dorm room in two additional ways. They ran a “Sleep Is Good” campaign to raise campus awareness of ENERGY STAR’s free software tools and services that automatically put monitors into low power mode when not in use—saving a significant amount of energy and money. The students passed out “Sleep Is Good” door hangers and created informational kits that residential advisors used to decorate their halls.

They also met with their Housing and Facilities Services departments, encouraging them to consider using ENERGY STAR products in future renovations.

For More Information or To Sign Up Your School

ENERGY STAR is interested in helping colleges showcase dorm rooms or expanding this project to other space types, such as staff offices. For more information or to sign up your school, contact Katy Hatcher, U.S. EPA at (202) 343-9676 or hatcher.caterina@epa.gov or Michelle Salisbury, The Cadmus Group, Inc., at (617) 673-7153 or msalisbury@cadmusgroup.com.