The Public Policy Center of the College of Social Sciences spearheaded the Sustainable Saunders Initiative as a collaborative effort among faculty and students to make Saunders Hall a model of workplace sustainability. The Initiative was designated by the UH Manoa Chancellor as a pilot project for the UH-HECO Energy Partnership. It was directed by a steering committee, composed of Professors David Nixon, Susan Chandler, and Dean Richard Dubanoski. It worked in close cooperation with an independent student organization, the Sustainable Saunders HUB, headed by Shanah Trevenna. The project initiated a dumpster dive to document the amount of waste that could have been recycled, and removed “excess” fluorescent lights in offices and classrooms. This resulted in a significant decrease in the electric bill in Saunders Hall. The project also held a department competition to see which units used the most (and least) energy. This was designed to increase the awareness of students and faculty about the high electricity bills (paid for by student tuition dollars) and how simple individual behaviors can impact Hawai'i's high use of fossil fuels.
Greenhouse gas emissions reduction is one of the primary public policy challenges of the modern world, and the experiments and research conducted for the Sustainable Saunders Initiative are contributing to the body of knowledge about human behaviors and sustainability. At the same time, many private sector partners have donated valuable equipment that pursues sustainability through innovative technology. We have formed additional partnerships with units in the University of Hawai'i at Manoa and key public organizations. Our partners include Energy Management Group, Zurn, Hawai'i Energy Connection and Conergy, Hawai'i Electric Company, the Board of Water Supply, the UH Manoa College of Engineering, the Hawai'i Energy Policy Forum, and the Hawai'i Natural Energy Institute.
Saunders Hall is home to the first renewable energy testbed functioning on a Manoa campus rooftop, courtesy of donations and logistical assistance from Hawai'i Energy Connnection, Enphase Energy, and the UH Manoa Sustainability Council. The system went live August 14, 2009. The first project for the testbed will evaluate micro-inverter technology that improves the efficiency of solar power arrays. Micro-inverters convert power from DC to AC for each panel individually, so that the solar array is not limited by the performance of the worst-performing panel. The micro-inverters communicate real-time power production data from each our solar array to a central website that archives the historical data.