Penn’s Green Fund Supports Innovative Light Automation

By Elizabeth Main, Sustainability Coordinator, University of Pennsylvania Facilities and Real Estate Services and David Mazzocco, Associate Director for Sustainability and Projects, Wharton Operations

17 November 2017

Penn’s Green Fund, created in 2009, is an initiative of Penn’s Green Campus Partnership to seed innovative ideas in environmental sustainability from members of the University community. The Green Fund welcomes ideas from students, faculty and staff about ways to improve the University’s environmental performance in support of the goals and objectives outlined in Penn’s Climate Action Plan.

Since its creation, more than 59 sustainability projects have received funding through Green Fund grants, ranging in topic from waste minimization to sustainable transportation, and from improvements to the campus landscape to energy conservation.

One recent project recipient is InstaHub, a multi-disciplinary student initiative comprising Wharton undergrad Michael Wong and Dayo Adewole and Matt Hanna from the School of Engineering and Applied Science (SEAS). They developed a battery-powered device with occupancy sensing capabilities that attaches over existing toggle light switches for instant light automation. The goal is to help Penn achieve the Climate Action Plan 2.0 goal of 10% reduction in energy consumption by 2019 through integrating a simple light automation solution. Wharton Operations, Penn Residential Services and SEAS co-sponsored their Green Fund application.

In addressing the problem of leaving lights on in unoccupied residential and small commercial spaces, the team looked to develop a cost effective, simple solution. Where conventional occupancy sensors are a possible option, installation costs to retrofit existing switches can account for more than 50% of the project cost. Instead of removing and rewiring to replace the toggle light switch, the device simply adheres to the faceplate over the existing switch.

To prove the effectiveness of the device, the grant funded a pilot to test prototypes in University student residence halls and staff offices. Current installations include five Wharton Operations staff offices with plans to install 25 prototypes in student lounges of four residence halls. The office installation also includes a data logger to measure changes in energy usage. The team hopes to gather early support and build a strong feedback loop to understand areas of improvements.

As the Fund’s goal is to foster innovation in environmental sustainability, one measure of success is recognition of the recipient’s efforts. InstaHub also received a PennVention award as well as interest by outside institutions to pilot their device.

Do you have a project that would support Penn’s environmental objectives, but need financial support to implement? Please visit the Green Fund website to learn more and submit an application!

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