The Quantified Urban Environment

The City of Oberlin, Ohio is the home of a revolution for environmentalists and citizens everywhere. You can now visit a website and see the city’s energy and water consumption habits in real time, and even zoom down to municipal buildings. Interested or concerned taxpayers, for example, can soon be able to check to see whether the Mayor left the lights on overnight. Business can run friendly competitions with each other over who is greenest, and all this information is updated in real-time and as available as if you were friends with the city on Facebook.

What’s the point? Well the goal is to develop an environmental consciousness within a community. As anyone who has gone on a diet knows, the starting point is getting on the scale. After you know how much you weigh, you can start to set goals. It is the same with energy consumption, even on a city-wide level. Oberlin is still setting up their system, bringing new buildings online, but you can check out their ‘social network for buildings’ on their website. For example, click here to see the library, and see when their peak hours of energy usage are, and there is even a helpful C02 calculator to illustrate the link between leaving the lights on, and extra pounds of carbon released into the atmosphere.   

Oberlin’s energy dashboard provides the measurement mechanism, and thanks to a grant from the Great Lakes Protection Fund, Oberlin College is planning on making the technology available for other communities. That means that you could have these empowering tools in your community too.

We’d like to collect a list of communities in New York that are interested in joining this revolution for great energy efficiency, accountability, and openness. If you think your town or city would be interested in getting involved, just fill out the survey below. 

Author: Loren Baum