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    Kids Audit Energy

    by ArchitectureWeek

    In 2002, the Columbia University Biosphere 2 Center in Arizona began a 10-year clean-energy initiative to convert the campus from an energy user to an energy producer. Participating in phase one of the project, an electric lighting retrofit, was a sixth-grade science class at Immaculate Heart Academy in Tucson. They conducted an energy audit of the Biosphere with results that closely matched those of professional auditors.

    The students were guided by teacher Tawnya Mann, by representatives of the Biosphere and General Electric (GE), and by Earth Savers, an energy services company that managed the lighting retrofit. The students used GE Lighting's GELA software, which calculates lighting energy use, to study both Biosphere 2 and their own school. The students' recommended retrofit of Biosphere 2 is expected to save several hundred thousand dollars in energy costs over the life of the newly installed lamps. The students also discovered a possible $150 annual lighting energy savings per classroom in their school.

    The GELA online Lighting Auditor allows a user to set up a computer database containing every existing light bulb in a building. The resulting audit provides a summary of how much energy the facility is currently using and how much could be saved by installing more energy-efficient lighting systems. The auditing software is part of the "Energy and Light" curriculum that GE makes available, free and online, to science teachers across the United States. The module teaches the history of lighting, with hands-on experiments in the science, technology, and mathematics of light.

    The GELA Energy audit is one of several projects that will be incorporated in Biosphere 2's "Passport To Learning," a program that integrates scientific, critical-thinking, and ecological concepts for students in grades K-12. To date, more than 13,000 students and teachers have participated in the program.

    Originally built by Space Biosphere Ventures, Biosphere 2 Center is Columbia University's 250-acre (100-hectare) Arizona campus devoted to deepening understanding of earth systems. Its 3.1-acre (1.25-hectare) glass-enclosed research laboratory supports academic programs for students from elementary level through graduate school.

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    Sixth graders at Immaculate Heart Academy in Tucson, Arizona conducted an online energy audit of Biosphere 2.
    Photo: GE Lighting

    ArchWeek Image

    Officials announced the onset of a 10-year plan to make the research center a net energy producer, with the glass-enclosed lab in the background.
    Photo: GE Lighting

    ArchWeek Image

    The students not only achieved professional results from their audit, but they had an enjoyable hands-on learning experience in the bargain, according to their teacher.
    Photo: GE Lighting

    ArchWeek Image

    The students also uncovered energy savings in their own school.
    Photo: GE Lighting

     

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