Using campus energy system data to save energy and provide students with real-world learning experiences

Jennifer Lynn Wade, Karin E. Wadsack, Benjamin L. Ruddell, Brent A. Nelson

Research output: Contribution to journalConference articlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


A variety of engineering classes teach students how to analyze thermodynamic systems or even provide students with training on simplified lab models of real systems. However, relatively few courses provide students with exposure to actual thermodynamic systems in operation. Additionally, campuses and large building complexes often have an abundance of operational HVAC systems and energy usage data, but comparatively few resources to analyze and monitor their performance. Recognizing this need and opportunity, we worked with the facilities department at our institution to use the campus energy operations as a source for student projects in multiple departments and at both undergraduate and graduate levels. These projects included monitoring HVAC operations to identify system faults, interpreting HVAC control logic to identify zero-cost energy savings, quantifying the potential benefit of energy efficiency retrofits in campus buildings, using campus energy load profiles to design alternative power solutions, and analyzing multiple data sets to determine strategies for reducing peak electricity demand. These projects gave students a deeper understanding of thermodynamic systems, going beyond the schematics they learn in textbooks and homework problems, while also teaching them about the practical operational and engineering challenges associated with real-world energy-consuming devices. Simultaneously, the identification of faults and energy efficiency opportunities enabled significant energy savings opportunities for the university. Such educational strategies can extend to almost any university, and can embed within existing courses or be developed for specific building science or informatics courses. These projects can engage students from a variety of disciplines, including computer science, mechanical engineering, and sustainability-focused programs, and they create opportunities for interdisciplinary problem solving.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalASEE Annual Conference and Exposition, Conference Proceedings
StatePublished - Jun 15 2019
Event126th ASEE Annual Conference and Exposition: Charged Up for the Next 125 Years, ASEE 2019 - Tampa, United States
Duration: Jun 15 2019Jun 19 2019

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Engineering


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