A key aspect of implementing sustainability measures is changing behavior –for instance, encouraging building users to think differently about how they use building features that have an impact of energy consumption. A good example of how this was done is at Harvard University’s Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology. Much of the science research in the department requires the use of chemical fume hoods, for conducting experiments with potentially harmful materials. Fume hoods use a great deal of energy, however, given the need for continuous rates of exhaust. Traditionally, researchers have not focused on the need to reduce energy, and have often left fume hood sashes open, even while not in use, thereby continuing high exhaust rates.
The Jacobsen Laboratory at Harvard was one of the first to proactively engage researchers in the conservation of energy. This was done by installing a real-time digital exhaust rate counter registering cubic feet per minute (CFM) of all of the hoods in the lab near the main lab entry: when a researcher leaves the lab, the display of a high CFM count reminds her that one or more sashes may be inadvertently left open, prompting her to return and check if any need closing. This sustainability initiative proved to be quite successful in changing researcher behavior, and it was subsequently incorporated into most laboratory renovations in the Cabot Science Center. The Harvard Office of Sustainability has been monitoring and helping to incentivize the research groups by introducing a monthly reward with beer and pizza for the group with the lowest CFM count!