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, 29 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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Highlighted Sector Activities

View select opportunities available to Alliance partners. Sign up for a technology campaign, engage in peer-exchange call with experts, or adopt another partner's proven solution.

Partner List

Through the Better Buildings Alliance, over 200 public and private sector organizations across the country are working together to share and replicate positive gains in energy efficiency. 

2017 Progress Report

More than 345 leading public and private sector organizations in the Better Buildings Challenge are saving 240 trillion Btus and an estimated $1.9 billion in cumulative energy and cost savings.

Featured Solutions

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.
The university’s new Student and Academic Services Building was designed with a comprehensive suite of energy efficient lighting features, including space-by-space light level controls to enable scheduling as well as dimming in individual offices, conference rooms, and classrooms.
This session explored the benefits of deep energy efficiency as the lowest-cost measure for reducing energy use and emissions, as well as innovative ways to secure offsets by sponsoring campus community energy efficiency.
In this panel, organizations participating in the Better Buildings Smart Labs Accelerator shared their success stories and describe the strategies they employed to cut energy consumption in their laboratories.
Representatives from Seventhwave and University of Washington's Integrated Design Lab discussed outcomes from two plug load energy reduction field studies.
Wireless meter and control technologies are on the rise, helping to improve building system performance and cut energy costs.This session presented two case studies showcasing the implementation, outcomes, and lessons learned of these technologies on plug loads in retail and higher education buildings.

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 is a top-tier institution recognized for its medical school and various professional programs, as well as its commitment to environmental sustainability. WaterHub reduces Emory’s dependence on potable water by reclaiming campus wastewater for non-potable reuse applications.


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:

  • Laboratory Efficiency
  • Engaging Occupants through Energy Management Information Systems (EMIS)
  • Energy Efficiency in Climate Action Plan Acceleration


Steering Committee Members

  • Kathia Benitez, Northwestern University (Co-Chair)
  • Christopher Fox, Emory University
  • John D'Angelo, Northwestern University
  • John Bernhards, APPA - Leadership in Educational Facilities
  • Moira Hafer, Stanford University
  • William Lakos, Michigan State University
  • Andrea Trimble, University of Virginia
  • Gregg Versonder, Stevens Institute of Technology
  • Phil Wirdzek, I2SL International Institute for Sustainable Labarotories
  • Gregory Farley, Chesapeake College
  • Elaine Sadowski, Community College of Allegheny County


Meet the Sector Committee Chair