By Kelsey Morris
As a summer intern at Go Green Squads, I worked on projects related to increasing the energy efficiency of residential buildings in Austin. Over a summer full of record high temperatures, including more than 80 days above 100 degrees, I saw first-hand how energy efficiency could potentially impact entire communities. I also learned how a business student could contribute to a field that I had previously thought was purely technical.
Before this summer I had a vague notion of what the term “energy efficiency” meant and had concluded that it was one of those complex problems that engineers dealt with. Efficiency meant improved lightbulbs and appliances. But, this summer, as temperatures rose and stayed high in my community in Austin, I was able to learn about ways to successfully apply my business background in this field.
This summer I interned for a start-up company that performs energy audits and upgrades for houses and apartment complexes in the Austin area. Energy audits give homeowners information about energy usage in their homes, which cannot be seen on a monthly energy bill. In addition, energy upgrades such as weatherization can offer these residents cost effective solutions that provide valuable saving to residents by reducing the amount of energy needed in the home. As a business intern at Go Green Squads, I had the job of putting together quotes for energy efficiency improvements and was able to learn first-hand the expense of improving the efficiency of individual homes, and the energy cost if these upgrades are not made.
As a business student, I have taken classes on statistical modeling and accounting. In these classes, I learned the basics of regression equations, price modeling, and costing principles, which gave me the foundation necessary to prepare price estimates for potential customers who wanted to see if “energy efficiency” was in their budget. In the process of preparing these quotes, I found that assumptions I had made regarding what would impact the cost were generally not correct. And, I was able to help improve the efficiency of the energy auditing process.
Initially, I believed that the square footage and age of a home would be the best indicators of the price of infiltration work – improving the efficiency of the home’s building work - for a residential house. But, after seeing the results of many blower door tests and insulation evaluations, I found that this relationship didn’t appear to be completely correct. In order to confirm my suspicion, I conducted some base-level statistical analysis on the data that we gathered during our energy audits. After processing these data, I found that just the age of the home could be used to provide a reasonable price estimate for the infiltration work on that home.
What does that mean for homeowners looking to do efficiency upgrades in the Austin area? If you own an older home you may need more infiltration work, and should consider focusing your energy upgrades in that area. If you have a newer house that will likely need less infiltration work, you may want to consider additional efficiency upgrades for your home. Further, when targeting areas for energy efficiency improvements, the average age of homes in the area could be used as the primary factor in identifying areas that might need significant upgrades.
What did this analysis mean for me? It showed me how a business student could contribute to improving the energy efficiency of our buildings. And, in turn, this experience showed me how a business background can help reduce our energy demand. While we don’t all have the training to build a wind farm or a power plant, we do have individual skills that can help our communities to become more efficient.
About the Author:
Kelsey Morris is a third year business student at the University of Texas at Austin and will graduate with a degree in Energy Finance in May 2013. In addition to working toward her Bachelors in Business Administration (BBA) in Finance, Kelsey is participating in the Bridging Disciplines Program, an academic program that allows university students to take cross-disciplinary coursework on a particular subject. Within this program Kelsey is studying social entrepreneurship and nonprofits with an environmental focus.
Currently, Kelsey serves as Vice President of the University of Texas chapter of Net Impact Undergraduate. Net Impact Undergraduate (NIU) focuses on educating students about sustainability and connecting students with socially responsible professionals and businesses. In the spring of 2012, Kelsey will study abroad at the University of Economics in Prague, Czech Republic. Kelsey can be contacted via e-mail at kelsey.morris @ bba09.mccombs.utexas.edu.