Higher Education

Higher Education

The higher education sector spends over $6 billion on annual energy costs and totals about 5 billion square feet of floorspace. Through the Better Buildings Alliance higher education group, 30 colleges and universities representing over 300 million square feet of space are sharing best practices and engaging with technical experts to advance their energy savings goals.

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Find Financing for Your Energy Efficiency Projects: Financing Navigator
Join the Better Buildings Alliance

Team up with DOE’s exceptional network of staff and technical experts to determine energy savings goals, develop innovative cost effective energy solutions, and deploy efficient technologies and market practices.

2019 Better Buildings Progress Report

To date, Better Buildings partners have saved nearly 1.4 quadrillion Btus, achieving more than $8 billion in energy and cost savings.

2019 Summit Presentations are Live

Slide decks from the 2019 Better Buildings, Better Plants Summit sessions are now available to download and share. 

Featured Solutions

Better Buildings conducted a review of 45 Campus Energy Master Plans, Sustainability Master Plans, and Climate Action Plans developed between 2008-2018 to identify common features and best practices.
This toolkit provides guidance and strategies for reducing energy consumption in laboratories. DOE and the International Institute for Sustainable Laboratories (I2SL) have agreed to coordinate activities around better energy management practices and energy-efficient technologies in laboratories.
Net Zero Energy RFQ Solutions at a Glance
Model RFQ for a proposed net zero energy workforce development & training center at Community College of Allegheny County (PA).
Due to the location and student-centric focus, the Student Pavilion was selected to become the first Net Zero Energy building at ASU. The pavilion provides an opportunity to demonstrate and teach Net Zero Energy and Zero Waste practices.
UC Berkeley's Energy Management Initiative (EMI) targets building occupants through building surveys and energy dashboards, and allocates energy cost responsibility to individual campus operating units to achieve savings of $6.5 million, 58.7 million kWh and 893,000 therms in just three years.
UC Irvine's integrated “Smart Lab” program improves lab energy efficiency through an array of control and sensor technologies.
UC Irvine's empirically derived technical and behavioral performance improvement program supports risk-taking and questions status-quo practices to produce exceptional results across the board.
sustainNU is Northwestern University's comprehensive occupant engagement program that encourages sustainable behavior, builds leadership capacity, and removes barriers to sustainable practices by leveraging certification programs, social media, outreach events, and friendly competition.

Other Resources

Case Study

This case study examines the use of educational stickers to promotes safe and efficient operation of fume hoods.


Explore a variety of activities below tailored to your sector, from testing out an implementation model to joining a technology adoption campaign.
This document describes how to implement a fume hood sash management campaign.
This presentation addresses laboratory ventilation flow rates. 
This presentation illustrates how the University of Colorado optimized laboratory ventilation rates.
This guide describes procedures to operate ULT freezers efficiently and to improve sample access.

Implementation Models

Delaware State utilized previously restricted state appropriations to create a revenue-neutral debt structure, allowing for large-scale bond financing of energy efficiency projects.
Water Hub Implementation Model
Emory University's Water Hub is an innovative, on-campus solution designed to treat and reuse up to 400,000 gallons of water per day, and decrease potable water demand by over 1/3.


This report summarizes the results of a DOE Better Buildings Alliance field demonstration to show the energy savings possible with high-efficiency equipment.
This document provides highlights from Better Buildings Alliance members that have optimized minimum ACR to reduce energy use while maintaining or improving safety – especially cases where the ACR has been reduced below 6 ACH1.


This energy only specification provides a description of required performance characteristics resulting in increased energy savings for ULTs in laboratories.

Additional Information

ISO 50001 Energy Management Standard
A proven approach for U.S. industrial and commercial facilities to continually improve energy performance. This powerful new standard from the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) provides an internationally recognized framework for organizations to voluntarily implement an energy management system.

U.S. EPA Guidelines for Energy Management
A proven strategy for energy management developed by the U.S. EPA ENERGY STAR program.

Sustainability Tracking, Assessment, and Rating System (STARS)
A framework developed by AASHE for measuring and reporting an institution’s overall sustainability performance.

Green Revolving Investment Tracking System (GRITS)
Developed by the Sustainable Endowments Institute to help institutions track, manage, and share performance data for energy efficiency projects funded under a green revolving fund. The tool is available only to members of the Billion Dollar Green Challenge.

Track, analyze, and reduce your higher education campus' carbon emissions through this carbon accounting platform.

Database of State Incentives for Renewable Energy (DSIRE)
A comprehensive database of incentives, rebates and policies that support renewables and energy efficiency in the United States.

Show Me the Money
A report by the Environmental Defense Fund and their partners that examines barriers to energy efficiency financing and strategies to overcome them. Higher education is one of several sectors discussed in the report.

Join the Billion Dollar Green Challenge
The Billion Dollar Green Challenge encourages colleges, universities, and other nonprofit institutions to invest a combined total of one billion dollars in self-managed green revolving funds that finance energy efficiency improvements.

Green Revolving Funds: A Guide to Implementation and Management
A white paper that helps colleges and universities build the business case for energy efficiency by establishing a green revolving fund.

Green Revolving Funds Case Studies
Case Studies provide in-depth and high-quality examples of how GRFs have successfully been structured.

Webinar: Implementation Strategies for Campus Green Revolving Funds
This webinar provides a roadmap to implementing and managing a successful green revolving fund to finance energy efficiency and sustainability projects.

Greening the Bottom Line
A report summarizing and analyzing trends in green revolving fund adoption and performance among colleges and universities.


The Better Buildings Alliance Higher Education Steering Committee helps to set priorities for Alliance work in the sector each year.  This year, sector activities focus on the following priorities:

  • Addressing skilled labor gaps and workforce challenges
  • Student engagement in energy measurement and tracking
  • Laboratory efficiency

Steering Committee Members

  • Kathia Benitez, Northwestern University (Chair)
  • Christopher Fox, Emory University
  • Moira Hafer, Stanford University
  • Andrea Trimble, University of Virginia
  • Gregory Farley, Washington College
  • Elaine Sadowski, Community College of Allegheny County
  • Phil Valko, Washington University in St. Louis
  • Robert Vandling, Arizona State University
  • Steve Glazner, APPA - Leadership in Educational Facilities

Meet the Sector Committee Chair