Duke LED Initiative

Our team successfully spearheaded an energy efficiency initiative that will save the university millions of dollars in electricity and maintenance costs each year.
Summary of Work

During my first week as a student at Duke University, I recognized that Duke had much room to grow with regards to becoming more energy-efficient. I founded the Duke LED Initiative to shift Duke University’s tube-lighting from fluorescent to LED-lighting, cutting Duke’s electricity consumption from lighting by ~50% and drastically reducing lighting maintenance costs. After several months of presentations, communication with stakeholders, pilot tests, and meetings with industry professionals, the initiative is now successfully being carried out across Duke University. Estimates at the beginning of implementation indicated the potential for the university to save up to $135 million over 15 years in electricity and maintenance costs from this initiative.

Timeline of Work

The following contains a timeline of our work.


The following are a few documents produced along our journey.

Early Poster Presentation (October 2016).

Survey, Procedures for Pilot

Duke LED Initiative Initial Detailed Document (Dec/Jan 2017).

Slides Associated with Presentation to President of Duke University, President Richard Brodhead

The following are three visuals of our team during early piloting for the initiative.

Skills + Takeaways
  1. At the start, this initiative developed my understanding of energy technologies in the built environment. By comparing a variety of different technologies (window-film, solar PV, etc.), I developed an understanding for different consumption patterns in commercial facilities and the relative value of tackling regions of energy consumption and generation.
  2. Through this initiative, I gained first-hand experience working with stakeholders to identify the necessary data needed to perform our analyses and to acquire this data by whatever means possible (this is evident in some of our documents above––estimates change based on available data over time).
  3. Through this initiative, I had the opportunity to work with stakeholders with differing goals. For example, administration’s goals are separate from those of the facilities departments, and each individual academic department or organization on campus has different priorities, which influence their budgeting for projects and activities. I gained experience working with each of these groups to identify each group’s goals, and to work to develop solutions and plans that aligned the stakeholders towards supporting the initiative.
  4. Likely one of the most difficult aspects of the initiative was finding ways to get buy-in from resistors or neutral parties on campus. As I mentioned, I founded the initiative during my first week at Duke during my freshman year. My lack of experience and time at the school led to great initial resistance from stakeholders and organizations. Additionally, as the idea is so simple, people questioned why it had not already been done. Through my experience, I realized a few ways to gather support from resistors
    1. Demonstrate success. Anybody can question ideas, but you can’t dispute proven success and physical evidence of an idea’s success. No pilot is too small.
    2. Know your own value. Believe in your own ideas and carry them to fruition.
    3. Identify influencers of resistors and gain their support.
    4. Try to understand why resistors are resistors, and work to address concerns.

Awards / Recognition

This work has been recognized by CBS NC (note a correction to the CBS story: the initiative was much more complicated than simply going to Home Depot and buying lights 🙂 ), the Pratt School of Engineering, and Duke Today.