Lucid Design Group’s Building Dashboard Network is primed for social media savvy folks to dial down their energy usage. So it is no surprise that Lucid has provided its product to various universities. To take it to the next step, Lucid just hosted the first Campus Conservation Nationals, a competition that challenged 40 universities across the country to cut back on water and energy use in dorms.

If there’s one thing college kids love more than rivalries, it’s Facebook. Enter Lucid with its social media-enabled platform complete with widgets to engage nearly 120,000 students. The results were impressive for a first-time competition. Interest in the program was greater than Lucid had anticipated, and some schools had to be turned away. Many of the universities had run these programs before, yet there were still more savings to be had. About half of the participating schools saw a 5 percent to 35 percent reduction in energy use with more than 550,000 kilowatt hours saved in total. The diversity of groups that got involved and the strategies used to encourage participation offer roadmaps for large organizations to use in tackling their own energy reduction goals.

The competition only tracked dorms because that is where students have the most influence on energy use, compared to a cafeteria, for example. But it wasn’t just students who were on board with the program, according to Andrew deCoriolis, Manager of Public Programs for Lucid Design.  Facility staff, residential life staff and others were also involved. Whether it was a building manager or a student group who first decided to join, ultimately the different constituents had to come together to make it work.

While students encouraged each other to shut off lights and laptops, facility managers adjusted temperature settings when asked and shut down partial hallway lighting. There was also everything from 5K fun runs and bingo to trivia nights and energy savings talks being part of freshman orientation.

Early surveys have found that for the schools that saved, the behavior changes will stick with the participants beyond the three-week competition. And for the schools that didn’t save, it wasn’t always because they weren’t trying. In some cases, one building threw off the average of savings achieved by other dorms, and deCoriolis admitted there was a lot of noise in the data. In some cases, there might be only so much that students can do to affect energy savings.

Even so, savings abounded. DePauw University is in the lead on the final day with a nearly 24 percent reduction from nine buildings. Appalachian State University was second with just over 20 percent across 19 buildings and University of British Columbia was third with nearly 17 percent savings in six dorms. Offical results are being tallied.

Moving forward, deCoriolis said that the competition might be more tailored, allowing schools to just compete against other certain schools (Bowdoin is looking to take on Bates and Colby, while St. John University was mostly concerned with beating NYU in this year’s competition -- and it did by catching the No. 6 ranking while NYU was number 12).

But this type of rivalry is not just for the sophomore set. Lucid Design is already in the planning stages to pit different business units at Yahoo take each other on. Google is also considering running a competition. DPR Construction is also considering having its San Diego headquarters go toe-to-toe against some other regional offices.

The three weeks of smack talk and turning off lights is fun in nearly any setting, but it is the conversations that can happen around these programs that are truly valuable. “It turns people from occupants to active managers,” said deCoriolis.