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As of yesterday night, the Penn Orb that monitors Rodin College House's energy consumption was lit up green, while that for Harrison College House was lit up red.

Credit: Yolanda Chen

Harrison and Rodin residents who pass by a glowing red orb might want to turn their lights off.

Wharton sophomore Jason Choi launched his eco-friendly initiative, PennOrb, in Rodin and Harrison College Houses last week.

PennOrb is an energy indicator that monitors energy consumption in buildings. Choi and his team have developed an algorithm that calculates an expected energy value that considers temperature, humidity and visible light. It then compares the expected value of energy consumption with the actual usage. The orb lights up green if the consumption is less than the expected value and red if the consumption is greater than expected.

The orbs are placed in visible areas, where residents can easily see them. When the orbs glow red, individuals are encouraged to reduce energy use. According to PennOrb’s website, “We want to help you save energy by showing how you use energy.”

“Ultimately, we just want to send a message that regardless of how many policies that school officials enact, it all comes down to students to make energy changes on campus,” Choi said, citing various sustainability initiatives on campus, such as the new eco-friendly college house, which will have a green roof and other energy-saving features. However, he added that there are currently few student-led sustainability efforts at Penn.

“We want to pioneer the student-led environmental campaign,” Choi said.

PennOrb is working closely with Facilities and Real Estate Services, which provides the team with real-time energy consumption data. Although the team has yet to assess any existing data, they plan to within the next few weeks.

“We are coordinating with [PennOrb] so they can use the data in their project and see if it changes behavior,” Executive Director of Operations and Maintenance Ken Ogawa said. “[The project] is all about education, and with more information, you empower the occupants to make educated choices.”

The pilot project will continue until Dec. 8, when Choi and his team will analyze the data to see if there are any decreases in energy usage in Harrison or Rodin. Although PennOrb is restricted to the two college houses for now, Choi hopes to expand his project to all three high rises and other universities in the future.

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