How a building gets used is as important to its energy consumption as how it is designed, and often designers have no control over this. (Look at the Bank of America Building to see this writ large) Perkins + Will addressed this issue in Bridgewater State University's George A. Weygand Hall and have made a radical move: They banned the personal mini-fridge and the microwave. It's an important move:
We structured the process around an understanding that there are elements that are controlled by design, and there are elements that are controlled by operations. To break down the process further, we tackled four key steps with the client: minimize building energy usage (passive strategies), maximize energy efficiency (active strategies), generate renewable energy, and reduce energy consumption based on building operation. This last one (“based on building operation”) is not often discussed in detail during the design process – but it makes all the difference!
Bar fridges can consume 800 watts, and having one in every dorm room adds up. Instead they are providing shared fridges which they suggest have "the added benefit of increased opportunity for interpersonal engagement and ideas exchange"- and fights over who ate my lunch and stole my beer.
The architects stress the importance of how the building is used.
With operational policy change – coupled with a geothermal well system and valance system, shower drain energy recovery, automatic window shut-off heating and cooling switches, and a tight building envelope – the building can reduce its energy consumption by 54% compared to industry baselines. We’ve done our part. Now it’s up to the newest residents of the building to hold the line!
This is an an important gesture, to inculcate in University students the idea that their actions matter. It will be interesting to see how this works out. Could you live without your own fridge at University?