<p>Finally — a dormitory room where the heat is “just right” and under the direct control of the people who live there. If it’s successful, the Diman House demonstration project could spread to other residence halls.</p>

For many Brown University students, the story of their dormitory rooms is like the Goldilocks tale: It’s too hot or too cold, but seldom just right. Even environmentally minded students wind up opening their windows in the dead of winter to cool off rooms that have become sauna-like from feverishly working radiators.

In at least one dorm, that should no longer be the case. On Tuesday, officials from Facilities Management, a sustainability contractor, and student environmental representatives led a demonstration of new controls on heating units in individual rooms for Diman House residents. The controls, attached to the radiator or wall unit depending on the room, have seven settings to regulate the heat, much like an individual thermostat. The goal, said the initiative’s proponents, is to give students stewardship of their personal climate, while also saving the University money by reducing wasteful energy use. Diman House is the first dormitory on campus to get the controls. If the venture is successful, other dorms may follow.

It’s a matter of control: Michelle Frea ’14, center, and Alison Murphy ’14, right, speak with Dallase Scott of GreenerU about controlling the heating systems in their dorm rooms. Credit:&nbsp;Mike&nbsp;Cohea/Brown University
It’s a matter of control Michelle Frea ’14, center, and Alison Murphy ’14, right, speak with Dallase Scott of GreenerU about controlling the heating systems in their dorm rooms. Credit: Mike Cohea/Brown University
“We want people to be in control of their own environments,” said Brett Shollenberger, a sustainable projects analyst at GreenerU, which the University contracted to install the heating controls and show students about how to use them.

The demonstration took place in a common room in Diman House. There, representatives explained how the controls worked and why the flow of heat from radiators must not be blocked, and they asked residents to keep their windows closed and to call maintenance if the heaters aren’t functioning properly.

Residents said they were happy to adjust the heat in their rooms and to be part of a University effort to reduce its energy use and carbon footprint. Karina Alventosa ’13, a Diman House resident, recalled with a grimace how her room in Caswell House was so hot in wintertime that even in shorts and a tank top, she couldn’t bear it and had to fling open a window.

“I tried to turn the heat off, but it was so hot, it was unlivable,” said Alventosa, who is an EcoRep, the cadre of students affiliated with Facilities Management who help raise awareness about environmental and sustainable practices on campus.

Michelle Frea ’14, another Diman House resident, also welcomed the personal thermostat and appreciated the University’s commitment to sustainability. “I guess because Brown is always looking to improve the school and the environment, it’s a natural step to take, for students to be involved” in environmentally friendly practices, she said.

Those leading the demonstration emphasized that residents should not hesitate to call if something is not working properly. No glitch is too small, they said. “Is this something I can complain about? Yes, we want them to call, and we expect them to call,” said Dallase Scott, sustainability program manager at GreenerU.