Beyond Technology: Social Predictors of Energy Efficiency in Industrial Facilities

Beyond Technology: Social Predictors of Energy Efficiency in Industrial Facilities



Garret B. Cowdery


Presentation: 1:40-2:00, Kennedy Union 310



Energy is the lifeblood of the industrialized world with electrical energy expected by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) to increase 25% between 2016 to 2050 in the United States. Combined with the ever-present climate crisis, energy-efficient buildings are becoming increasingly important to conserve resources and alleviate strain on aging energy systems. The Industrial Assessment Center (IAC) program through the US Department of Energy aims to reduce the consumption of large, single-site energy users, industrial and commercial buildings, through comprehensive energy audits. Such investigations find that energy-efficient structures are a technological challenge as much as social. The mentality of building occupants towards energy use strongly impacts the efficiency of the building with the energy conscientiousness of the inhabitants being a key factor in maximizing theoretical performance. Not in My Backyard (NIMBY) is a social phenomenon where communities rise in opposition to controversial facilities that serve to upset community wellbeing. These are generally energy-intensive projects that may detract from the natural beauty or environmental health of an area. The negative reaction originates from difficult-to-measure factors such as personal attitudes and trust between involved parties but can be loosely predicted by specific demographic quantities. This investigation aimed to primarily analyze the quantity, scale, and quality of community energy systems at the county level of Ohio in conjunction with collected IAC data and NIMBY demographics to identify potential external predictors for industrial energy intensity based on NIMBY sensitivity. Ultimately, only a weak correlation is found between industrial facility energy usage and the listed attributes, but the investigation paints a vivid demography of people, energy resources, and industrial agglomeration while emphasizing and supporting the need for continual research into the social functions that drive technical success.

Publication Date


Project Designation

Honors Thesis

Primary Advisor

Jun-Ki Choi

Primary Advisor's Department

Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering


Stander Symposium, School of Engineering

Institutional Learning Goals

Critical Evaluation of Our Times; Community; Diversity

Beyond Technology: Social Predictors of Energy Efficiency in Industrial Facilities