From left to right, Dara Hourdajian, Kevin Lehman, David Ganske, Secretary of Energy Steven Chu, and Jorge Ordonez. Photograph courtesy of Department of Energy website, Energy.gov
A team of five students from SIPA’s Energy Association won “Best Proposal” for one of four cases at the Department of Energy’s inaugural Better Buildings Case Competition, held in the White House on Friday, March 2nd, 2012.
Energy Secretary Steven Chu announced the winners after an all-day event, where 110 students from 19 competing universities presented their proposals to judges in the Learning Annex of the White House.
The Better Buildings Case Competition, part of the Energy Department’s Better Buildings Challenge, reached out to the SIPA Energy Association (SEA) last semester, encouraging them to compete. This January, students from 19 schools received two different cases (Columbia University received the HEI Hotels and Resorts case and the City of Houston case). They had to submit a proposal for each case three weeks later and present at the White House a week after that. Both teams representing Columbia University were SEA student teams.
The winning proposal was for the HEI Hotels and Resorts Case. Dara Hourdajian (MPA ‘12), Kevin Lehman (MS ‘12 in Sustainability Management), David Ganske (MIA ‘13), Jorge Ordonez (MPA ‘13), and Tristan Wallace (MPA ‘13) submitted the proposal for a hotel energy efficiency plan, within certain restraints.
“When we first read through the case, the main challenge for us was to identify what was the objective. I think that set us apart from other groups,” said Hourdajian.
The objective, they found, was for a New Jersey hotel within the Marriott chain to make changes that would increase energy efficiency, with limited resources.
“Right away, we identified that this was a financial solution rather than a technical solution. So we started researching alternatives we could come up with,” explained Ordonez.
Their technique was to investigate what the State of New Jersey had to offer. They proposed depending on tax credits and incentives from the State of New Jersey rather than on financial assistance from the franchise, which was an objective that they had identified in the case.
“We saw that many universities tended to approach one side of the problem, instead of a comprehensive approach,” added Ordonez. “I think this was a strength of our case: being able to address the financial and policy side, making it attractive to industry professionals [who were the judges].”
The winning proposals will be posted on the Department of Energy’s website so people can have access to them and consider their recommendations.
“Hopefully we’ll be able to go back next year and defend the title,” Ordonez added.
- Michelle Chahine