Festive switch-off

Here’s advance notice of the Festive switch-off as it applies to Informatics.

This year’s request from the Computing Officers will be similar to last year’s:

Please help to reduce the University’s energy bill by switching off any
equipment, including computers and monitors, that you are unlikely to
use over the Xmas break.

If you are responsible for research group servers, please consider powering these down over the vacation. Contact support if you need computing staff to do this for you.

You can power off a DICE box either by briefly pressing the power button on the front of the machine or choosing the Shutdown option from the menu at the bottom of the DICE login screen.

If you think you may want to remotely access your desktop over the holidays, log out […]. You can wake the machine again by going to wake.inf.ed.ac.uk. Self-managed machines can also be awoken using this mechanism – contact support for details.

Note that logging out will allow your machine to sleep. Putting it to sleep using System->Shutdown…->Suspend from within a graphical session doesn’t work completely yet – if the machine wakes again, it won’t go back to sleep. The comprehensive documentation on sleep explains more.

Can we do better than last year?

Last year, the data collected from the main meter showed that in the quietest week of the vacation we managed to reduce the total electricity use by about 23% on a typical week (Table 1, below). Data collected from the UPS systems showed that power used by offices was down by about 27% and server electricity was down by 28%.  However the baseline usage (the minimum in any week) was down by only 21% for offices, as opposed to 26% for servers (Table 2). It would be great if we could get the baseline down lower this year.

Table 1: Weekly total electricity use (kWh)

     from Office Server Other Total Forum % Server % Other % Total %
2011-12-05 10336   8193 25423 43953     100      100     100     100
2011-12-12 10162   7953 25033 43148      98       97      98      98
2011-12-19  8796   7248 24308 40352      85       88      96      92
2011-12-26  7513   5891 20229 33633      73       72      80      77
2012-01-02  8743   6953 22512 38208      85       85      89      87
2012-01-09  9749   7734 24365 41848      94       94      96      95
Table 2: Weekly baseline electricity use (kW)

     from Office Server Other Forum % Server % Other %
2011-12-05    52     47    98     100      100     100
2011-12-12    52     46   102      99       99     104
2011-12-19    41     35    96      79       74      98
2011-12-26    41     35    97      79       74      98
2012-01-02    43     35    91      81       75      93
2012-01-09    48     45    99      91       95     101
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Live energy display now live

The live energy display I mentioned in June is now appearing in the sequence of images and videos on the plasma screen by the entrance. You’ll need to wait a maximum of about 15 minutes for it to appear.

If you’d rather not stand around waiting, you can also view the information via this web page. Now’s a nice time to look, as it looks as though we are on track to use 15% less electricity in 2012 than we did in 2011!

Thanks to Dougie Williams in Estates and Buildings for working with  Meterology to generate the web page from the University’s metering system, and to our COs Jennifer Oxley and Alison Downie for putting the page into the screen’s playlist.

More thanks are due to Dougie for making tweaks to the building controls that are probably responsible for a chunk of the savings. Computing and office energy use is also down, so thanks are also due to Computing Support and everyone who has been turning off equipment and putting machines to sleep.


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Lighting improvements in toilets

One project that has been undertaken by Mike Riley’s team at Estates and Buildings is to adjust the Passive Infrared Sensors (PIRs) in the toilets so that now the lights come on only when you enter a cubicle rather than as you pass by.

There are more lighting projects in the offing (see the list of projects and the POE report), including the lights in the some of the coffee areas that never go out.

And although we don’t have control over all lights in the building, we can help by turning off office and meeting room lights when leaving.


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Action arising from post occupancy evaluation

Executive summary: there are a number of projects either underway or under discussion to reduce energy consumption in the Forum and improve the comfort of its occupants. The  notes of the latest Post Occupancy Evaluation meeting explain some of the thinking behind the list.

For the longer story, read on…

Post Occupancy Evaluation (POE)  is, according to Preiser et &al., cited in Wikipedia,

the process of evaluating buildings in a systematic and rigorous manner after they have been built and occupied for some time.

In a presentation at the Mainstreaming POE meeting at the Lighthouse, Glasgow in 2009, Bill Bordass and Adrian Leaman propose that the main key questions addressed by POE are:

1. How is this building working?
2. What do people think about it?
3. How does this relate to client and design intent?
4. How can this building be improved?
5. How can future buildings be improved?

The presentation gives examples of buildings that do not perform as designed,  demonstrating the importance of  POE.

What’s this to do with us? The same Bill Bordass has been undertaking a POE of the Potterrow Development (i.e. the Informatics Forum and Dugald Stewart Building) for the University and Bennetts Associates, the Forum’s architects. You may remember filling in a questionnaire in July 2011 about your perception of the building. The responses to this survey, and other data will be presented in the report.

In the process or writing the report, Bill Bordass has had a number of meetings with staff from Estates & Buildings, Informatics and PPLS. At these meetings several energy-saving and comfort-improving ideas have been discussed and actions have been agreed on, as detailed in the notes of the last POE meeting. Bill’s contributed his understanding, gleaned from years of experience of investigating buildings, of how the heating and ventilation in the Forum work in practice. He’s also put forward some new ideas and helped to refine some which had already been discussed by Informatics and E&B people, as summarised in the Informatics Energy report. Gratifyingly, the results of our in-house comfort survey have complemented the survey run by Bill.

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Heating and space temperature standards

I know from the comfort survey that many occupants of the Forum feel too cold in Winter. However, if you are lucky enough to have an office that is warm enough, please bear in mind the Energy Office’s request to not overheat your office.

If you do feel too cold (or hot), then take a look at the Energy Office’s advice. One link from that page is to the University’s current Space Temperature Standards.  Among other things, I didn’t know that:

The University aims to provide a working room temperature of 20-21°C in academic and administrative areas during the heating season (mid September through to early May)

If you’d like to order a thermometer, please email Shona Buchanan in the Energy Office.


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Quality Bike Corridor articles (featuring the Forum)

Those who commute to the Forum on two wheels will probably  have already experienced the improvements to the bike lanes from George IV Bridge to King’s Buildings. I noticed that council’s announcement about this “Quality Bike Corridor” and this article in The Times were both illustrated by pictures with the Forum as a backdrop – quite a dramatic one in the The Times. The council’s photo also features in the interesting analysis by Spokes of the possible effect of the improvements on cycle commuting numbers.

Update: the Quality Bike Corridor has been disucussed on the  CityCyclingEdinburgh Forum. A fair summary of the conclusion comes from this quote from “cc” (who he?):

Overall it’s positive. It’s just several orders of magnitude less positive than it could have been.


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Nature article: Be persuasive. Be brave. Be arrested (if necessary)

This viewpoint article by financier Jeremy Grantham in  Nature seems pertinent to this blog. In argues that scientists should be more outspoken about the dangers of climate change:

It is crucial that scientists take more career risks and sound a more realistic, more desperate, note on the global-warming problem. Younger scientists are obsessed by thoughts of tenure, so it is probably up to older, senior and retired scientists to do the heavy lifting. Be arrested if necessary. This is not only the crisis of your lives — it is also the crisis of our species’ existence. I implore you to be brave.

There is also some concerning stuff about fertiliser depletion.

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Comfort survey results

Here’s another report – this time on the results of the Comfort Survey, which 106 of you kindly filled in. The statistics will probably not be too much of a surprise to anyone in the Forum – some rooms are too hot in general and some are too cold in the Winter. A majority of respondents found the air to be too stuffy in the Summer. The raw data has been used to inform Bill Bordass’s investigations of the building and should inform any tweaks to the building’s ventilation or heating in the future.

In case you’re wondering about the format of the report, it was created from the dataset using R and Sweave.

Image by Maarten Baas released under the Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic License.

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Report on reducing energy consumption in the Forum

After too long a delay, here is the Informatics Energy Report on what I’ve discovered about energy use in the Forum and what other willing colleauges have been doing to help reduce it. The executive summary is that since April energy use has been is down by around 15% on the corresponding month in 2011. Some of this is due to improving the control of ventilation in the Forum and some is due to reductions in desktop computer and office appliance use.

I’m very aware that there is more to do – not least the lights permanently on in the kitchen areas. Hopefully there will  be progress to report on this and other areas before too long.

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New energy display – comments welcome

I’m afraid that the first half of the year has vanished without me even getting round to writing up an analysis of the energy use over Christmas, as promised. I will try to do this later, but for now, here’s a link to a live display of the Forum’s energy use.

Hopefully this is going to be displayed on the screen at the entrance of the Forum. I think a few tweaks to the alignment of the graphs would be good – any comments you have would be welcome. I’ll pass them on to Dougie Williams from Estates and Buildings, who has been working with various schools to get similar displays installed.

It looks as though we’ve been using at least 10% less energy in the past few months than we did at this time last year.

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