EPA Spends $295,507 to Track Energy and Water Use of Office Workers

Color-coded light system will alert employees ‘to change their habits’

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The Environmental Protection Agency is spending nearly $300,000 to develop technology that will track the energy and water use of office buildings, with a colored light bulb system that will send “visual messages” to employees when they are using too much.

Lucid Design Group, a California-based software company, received the funding from the agency with the goal to “change the habits” of Americans at work.

“Through this project, Lucid is focused on reducing energy consumption in commercial buildings by influencing people’s behavior,” the EPA said in a press release announcing the project. “With this award, it will further develop, test and commercialize low-cost high-tech approaches that can reduce electricity use in commercial buildings by providing real-time feedback to office workers.”

“The technology seeks to reduce peak electricity demand and associated utility bill costs through ambient color-based visual messaging; balancing energy usage and occupant comfort,” the agency said.

Jared Blumenfeld, an EPA regional administrator, said telling employees that they are using too much energy could “change their habits.”

“Lucid’s project is a great example of how technology can be used to help protect the environment,” he said. “Giving office workers immediate feedback on their energy use can help them to change their habits for the better.”

The project is part of the EPA’s People, Prosperity, and the Planet competition, which initially awards grants worth $15,000 for environmental technology projects. Past projects include a device to monitor how long hotel guests spend in the shower, and “trash walls” for the poor.

Lucid Design Group was selected for the second phase of the program, which awards up to $300,000 to continue developing their technology and bring it to the market.

Lucid Design Group first developed a “Building Dashboard,” used to monitor an office building’s energy use.

“This online tool tracks in real-time how much energy and water is being used in a building and provides visual insights that can influence occupants to change their habits,” the EPA said.

Lucid Design Group received $99,584 from the EPA in 2014, which includes roughly $15,000 to develop the idea and $75,000 after attending the “National Sustainable Design Expo.”

The funding went towards the development of “Building Orbs” to “encourage behavior-based energy conservation in commercial buildings.”

“Building Orbs” are a system of light bulbs that change color when energy use is too high.

“The project team, which includes original members of the Oberlin College P3 (People, Prosperity and the Planet) team, will begin by completing development of and testing novel, low-cost software tools that allows off-the-shelf, multi-colored, internet-connect LEDs such as the Philips Hue and the LIFX to be transformed into ‘Building Orbs,’” according to the grant for the project.

The system will provide “ambient color-based feedback to building occupants,” and use “visual messaging.”

The “Building Orbs” will “tap the demand response potential of behavior-driven electric loads through visual messaging during demand response events,” and try to get office workers to reduce their electricity use through “visual messaging by enabling behavior-based peak demand management.”

The company has now received $395,091 for the technology including the latest $295,507 grant.

Elizabeth Harrington   Email | Full Bio | RSS
Elizabeth Harrington is a staff writer for the Washington Free Beacon. Elizabeth graduated from Temple University in 2010. Prior to joining the Free Beacon, she worked as a staff writer for CNSNews.com. Her email address is elizabeth@freebeacon.com. Her Twitter handle is @LizWFB.

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