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Using Competitions to Improve Energy Efficiency

November 11, 2014 | 2 comments

As a facilities manager, you help establish the framework for energy-efficient, green building operations. But it can be a challenge to find effective tactics that motivate tenants and occupants to change their behavior and help your team achieve energy-efficiency and conservation goals.

You’ve probably heard about competitions among cities or across the nation, such as ENERGY STAR’s Battle of the Buildings. But you can also develop an internal energy-efficiency competition to channel the competitive spirits within your own organization – whether it’s a competition among departments or floors in a single facility, or a campus-wide challenge between buildings.

Here are a few tips to keep in mind as you embark on an internal energy-efficiency competition:

  • First, make sure you understand your building’s current energy performance
  • To encourage ongoing participation, consider establishing milestones or goals for groups to reach within certain timeframes
  • Offer guidelines or suggestions on small things tenants/occupants can do to get started
  • Decide how you’ll measure the effects of changed tenant/occupant behavior
  • Establish methods of communication for performance updates, whether it’s via regular e-mails, a company-wide intranet, digital signage, etc.
  • Brainstorm ways to encourage sustained behavior even after the competition is over (through ongoing communications and energy-saving tips, asking for regular updates from each group, etc.)

Example #1: L’Oréal USA
L’Oréal issued an energy reduction challenge with a floor-by-floor competition that motivated occupants to employ energy-saving behaviors. On a monthly basis, each floor’s progress was measured, reported on, and rewarded. The organization aimed for a goal of 20% energy reduction per floor after six months. Small changes were made throughout each floor, including notes reminding employees to shut off lights and computers, establishing internal ambassadors to rally colleagues, etc. After six months, a $5,000 cash prize was given to the winning floor, which had established an energy reduction of 37%.

Example #2: Luther College
Luther College’s sustainability coordinators, along with its Environmental Concerns Organization (ECO) student group, organize annual competitions between residence halls. Through education and behavior change, the college aims to achieve a 2% reduction in energy use each year. It’s part of a campus-wide goal to reduce Luther College’s carbon footprint by 50%. Students participate by signing an Energy Conservation Pledge, which also features energy-saving tips and a dashboard to check progress. Social media was used to recruit and motivate participants; a $250 cash prize is given to the dormitory that conserves the most electricity. Another $250 is awarded to a first-year dormitory participant that completes the most energy audits per resident.

ENERGY STAR also offers a helpful guide for commercial buildings that are interested in hosting their own internal energy-use competitions.

Have you established an energy-efficiency competition within your own organization? Why or why not?


  1. Bryan Whitfield
    December 22, 2014

    The idea of competition really works. People are naturally competitive, a quirk of human behavior you can use to save energy.

    In the TED talk “How behavioral science can lower your energy bill,” Alex Laskey explains how his company has helped utilities reduce their customers energy use by two terawatt hours per year using this idea.

    If you want to know why this works, take a look at Alex’s TED talk here:

  2. Vista
    December 23, 2014

    Thanks for the link, Bryan! We’ve heard about this TED talk; it’s very interesting. Thanks for weighing in!

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