At Focus-UW we are working on persuading off-campus rental property owners to make their housing more energy efficient to create a market of sustainable housing options for students living at University of Wisconsin-Madison. A roadblock our campus currently faces is the fact that students in Madison generally live in off-campus housing or apartments for only one or two years. Therefore, rental property owners do not see how engaging in environmentally sustainable practices or making their properties more energy efficient will be of any benefit to them. At the same time, for the students who desire to live in more environmentally friendly housing, there is no easily accessible database that exists for them to find information about the energy efficiency or sustainability of properties off campus.
Our goal for the next few months is to create incentives which attract property owners and students to environmentally-friendly housing. We are researching the most effective and credible way to rate off-campus housing on energy efficiency. The most recent stakeholder we met with was the Director of Community and Residential Properties at Madison Gas and Electric where we discussed the resources available to property owners who agree to retrofit their properties. We also discussed how we can educate students on how to conserve energy at home. Once Focus-UW finds an effective means of rating off-campus housing for energy efficiency, we need a way to present this information to students. We plan on developing a user-friendly program to connect landlords with energy efficient properties to students looking for sustainable housing.
To implement our project, we intend to work with a variety of student groups and University organizations. For example, we will have Computer Science majors develop an online database and housing-search program for these properties, and student volunteers to help update run-down houses for increased energy efficiency. While our project is still in the early stages, the mission of Focus-UW is already generating positive buzz around campus. Students, faculty, and staff at the University of Wisconsin have all expressed support for our project making us even more hopeful about the potential change we can implement on our campus.