Moving Duke Toward Carbon Neutrality

Project Team

Team profile by Quentin Cui, Hazel Horvath, Joyce Huang, Sara Platek, Carsten Pran, Thomas Wang, Mingjie Zhao, Yuchen Zhu and Ziwei Zhu


The Bass Connections team aimed to find a way for Duke University to more effectively report the energy usage of Duke's buildings to different stakeholders. It is crucial to understand the energy consumption patterns of buildings since buildings and their related constructions consume ~36% of global final energy consumption and are responsible for nearly 40% of total carbon emissions (IEA, 2019).

Students; handouts.
Thomas Wang (Economics ’20) presents the Gross Hall Building Energy Use Report at the Energy Innovation Showcase during Duke University's Fourth Annual Energy Week; flyers about our project

People discussing poster.
Yuchen Zhu ( MEM '20) presents the Gross Hall Building Energy Use Report at the Energy Innovation Showcase

Duke has improved the efficiency of its buildings on campus by 19% since 2007. However, there are still opportunities to reduce building energy use by educating key stakeholders in buildings. Building energy reports educate decision-makers on building energy use and performance, including visualized consumption, cost, and emissions data. Therefore, in order to help Duke achieve carbon-neutrality by 2024, tracking the energy usage of buildings is central to reducing emissions.

Summary of Work

Before the fall semester, the summer Data+ Team processed and analyzed utility consumption data and developed monthly building energy use reports and a project poster. Using the dataset developed by the Data+ team, the Bass Connections team created energy reports for 8 different buildings across campus in the fall. The team consolidated the most effective aspects of these 8 reports to create a final report template. Afterwards, the team interviewed key stakeholders in campus finance and operations and used their feedback to further refine the report. Over the course of the project, the team discovered that while building managers and other stakeholders had access to energy usage data, they felt that they did not have a centralized and visual way to view this data. The line graphs, bar charts, pie charts, and other visualizations in the reports gave stakeholders a more succinct and effective way to view the data.

“Ultimately, we hope this information will create awareness and bring a greater understanding of energy use to campus so we can inspire students and faculty to make behavioral changes, and so we can assist staff with recommendations for energy efficiency measures.” (Hazel Horvath, Environmental Science & Policy, Global Health, '20)

During the spring semester, the team pivoted towards student engagement, which involved creating an energy use report specific to dorms. This report, which includes energy consumption trends, emissions, cost, energy use rankings, and recommendations for improvement will be provided to the Assistant VP of Student Affairs and Dean for Residential Life, Joe Gonzalez. Finally, the team spent the end of the spring semester editing final versions of the building energy use reports, streamlining the process for generating data visualizations, creating an instructional guide for making future versions of the energy reports, and providing a comprehensive transition plan for Sustainable Duke to continue the project.

“Being part of a Bass Connections team has rewarded me with the invaluable opportunity to collaborate with a diverse team of passionate students, faculty and staff to address the greatest crisis of our time – climate change.” (Sara Platek, Public Policy '21)

Meet the Team

The Bass Connections team was composed of undergraduate and graduate students and project leaders and faculty from a wide variety of backgrounds and disciplines. The team was led by project leaders Billy Pizer, Jason Elliott, and Zachary Johnson, and they guided the team to engage with multiple stakeholders in building energy across campus, including building and finance managers,  leaders of student environmental groups, and dormitory residence coordinators. The variety of voices on the team strengthened the quality of the final products; from graphic designers to data analysts, the team came together around the goal of making Duke’s buildings more energy efficient.

Screenshot of team members.

"After working on this project for the past semester, I feel like my team has done a really great job of taking everyone’s unique interests and skills into consideration. It has been very beneficial to gain data analysis and data visualization skills, which were two of the things I was hoping to learn through this project." (Joyce Huang, Psychology '22)

Building Energy Use Report for the Sanford School of Public Policy