[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]The higher education community spends an estimated $14 billion annually on energy costs. Universities across the country are committing to reduce their energy usage to save money, create jobs, and avoid significant emissions of CO2. By joining the Better Buildings Challenge, universities commit to reducing energy use by at least 20% over 10 years.

The Better Buildings Challenge is a government program created by the Department of Energy to encourage U.S. companies, manufacturers, universities, school districts, multifamily organizations, and state and local governments to adopt cost-effective strategies to improve energy efficiency.

In April 2020, two of the largest higher education partners in the Better Buildings Challenge, Michigan State University and the University of Utah, achieved their energy reduction goals. The University of Utah beat its goal by achieving energy savings of 25 percent across 17 million square feet of building space. Michigan State University also beat its goal 2 years ahead of schedule, reducing energy use by 20% in its 20-million-square-foot building portfolio. Both universities achieved their goal through cost-effective strategies and smart technologies that improved the energy efficiency of their buildings across the campus.

What strategies helped the universities achieve their goals?


1. Auto Controls and Analytics

  • Schedule your HVAC according to need by zone. Rather than heating, cooling and exhausting entire buildings or large spaces when not needed (i.e. overnight and on weekends), scheduling areas by need (i.e lab experiments, occupied areas only, etc.) allows necessary areas to be served by the mechanical systems while reducing wasted energy in non-critical and unoccupied areas.
  • Optimize real-time controls. Using localized temperature, pressure, and carbon dioxide level sensors in real-time across individual areas and spaces, allows the mechanical systems to provide the appropriate amount of heating, cooling, and fresh air for each space with the least amount of energy and wear on the HVAC equipment.
  • Take advantage of your data. Analyzing the information from sources like building management systems, such as historical and current data, trends, and equipment level operating parameters, allows facility staff to identify failed equipment and equipment that is not operating to original specifications. By fixing faulty equipment, the system runs as designed thus saving energy, reducing wear on other components, and reducing cost.


2. Audits and Targeted Upgrades

Prior to making updates, each school conducted an energy audit of each campus building to determine what upgrades were needed. A typical energy efficiency audit includes a thorough examination of all energy-consuming loads in the facility to develop the best solutions to yield maximum energy savings. The buildings that had the highest energy consumption received improved insulation, LED lighting, upgrades to HVAC systems, more efficient building environmental systems, and better steam distribution.


3. Renewables and Alternative Fuel Sources

In addition to lowering their energy use, both universities increased their reliance on renewables to drive their sustainability goals. Michigan State University added solar panels to 40 acres of its parking lots and switched the power plant’s fuel source from coal to natural gas. In February, the University of Utah agreed to a new energy deal, buying some of its power from a geothermal plant. With this deal, the university receives more than 50% of its electricity through renewable sources.[/vc_column_text][vc_cta h2=””]Although both universities achieved their initial goal, they are continuing to look for ways to reduce their energy use and carbon emissions.

Not a part of the Better Buildings Challenge? No problem. No matter what goal your university or organization is driving to achieve, the above tactics can increase the efficiency of your building, reducing consumption, and annual energy costs.

Contact the EEP team today to discover your organization’s energy-saving opportunities. [/vc_cta][/vc_column][/vc_row]