Award-winning Comprehensive Occupant Engagement at Northwestern University

Earlier this year, Better Buildings partner Northwestern University became the first university in more than a decade to receive the 2018 ENERGY STAR® Partner of the Year Award for its efforts to reduce campus energy consumption and educate students, faculty, staff and the broader community about energy efficiency. A Better Buildings Challenge partner since 2010, Northwestern is home to a range of buildings covering residential, laboratory, office, classroom and athletic facilities.

In October, the university was also recognized for their environmental work with the 2018 Illinois Sustainability Award, the longest-running environmental award program in the state of Illinois. This recognition follows the announcement of a five-year strategic plan to guide sustainability programming from 2017 to 2021 and encourage campus engagement. sustainNU, the University’s sustainability program, developed the plan.

Engaging employees, occupants, residents, and customers is one of the key barriers that partners in the Better Buildings Challenge work to solve. Through the Better Buildings Challenge Northwestern is sharing its occupant engagement implementation model as an example of overcoming that barrier.

With an extended community spread across 15M sq. ft. in the Cities of Evanston and Chicago, sustainability outreach was a challenge for Northwestern. In order to encourage sustainable behavior among the occupants of the university’s more than 200 buildings, Northwestern developed and launched a communication and engagement program as part of sustainNU.

To garner community-wide buy-in from the very beginning, sustainNU collaborated with university faculty, staff, and students. They hosted a town-hall-style event open to anyone interested in attending, and participating stakeholders were organized into five working groups based on areas of interest and expertise.

Once the Strategic Sustainability Plan and Implementation Roadmap were developed, the working groups focused on achieving the goals outlined by the plan. More than 300 members of the university community are currently participating in the working groups.

Northwestern recently completed a comprehensive energy consumption audit of its 222 campus buildings in Evanston and Chicago. The audit found a reduced energy use intensity (energy use per square foot) of 10 percent compared to the baseline year of 2012.

In addition to its occupant engagement efforts, the Better Buildings Challenge partner plans to meet its 20% energy reduction commitment through infrastructure improvements. Northwestern committed an additional $4.5 million in funding for installing demand control ventilation, including unoccupied setbacks, in laboratory spaces. Northwestern is also evaluating LED lighting retrofit opportunities, onsite electrical generation through solar PV and CHP, water reclamation, and decentralization strategies.

To see additional work from Better Buildings partners to overcome engagement barriers take a look at Implementation Models from Allegheny College, UC Berkeley, Trinity Management, Shorenstein, Shari’s Café & Pies and more here.

To read more about Northwestern University’s Comprehensive Occupant Engagement, check out the Implementation Model on the Better Buildings Solution Center.