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Better Buildings Partners among Top Green Universities in the Nation

By Better Buildings Beat Team on Sep 19, 2018

Better Buildings Challenge partner University of California, Irvine (UCI) is back in the number one spot in Sierra Magazine's 2018 "Cool Schools" ranking and secured the top spot in the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education's (AASHE) 2018 Sustainable Campus Index. However, this year, the Anteaters aren't the only ones from Better Buildings making top ranks in energy efficiency among these two higher education sustainability rankings. Better Buildings Alliance partner Stanford University also secured a spot in AASHE's 2018 Sustainable Campus Index as a top performer in Diversity & Affordability. Better Buildings Alliance partners Arizona State University (ASU) and Cornell University also placed in Sierra Magazine’s “Cool Schools” top 20 ranking.

AASHE released its 2018 Sustainable Campus Index in late August. The index recognizes top-performing colleges and universities overall and in 17 sustainability impact areas, as measured by the Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System (STARS). UCI and Stanford University both received the esteemed STARS Platinum rating – two of only four campuses to do so.

Sierra Magazine listed UCI, ASU, and Cornell University as part of its top 20 Coolest Schools in 2018 out of 269 colleges and universities. Also released in late August, the annual “Cool Schools” ranking evaluates schools’ performance across 18 categories ranging from curriculum, transportation, to water management. To calculate ratings, Sierra Club—parent company of Sierra Magazine—collaborates with AASHE. Securing the number one spot on the top 20 list, UCI earned praise for its net-zero-emission housing construction and a pioneering power-to-gas hydrogen-pipeline injection project. This project converted solar power generated on campus into hydrogen that’s then inserted into the university’s gas supply. This year’s ranking makes UCI the only campus to score in the top 10 for the ninth consecutive year, placing first in 2014 and 2015. The university was also recognized this year by DOE for surpassing its goal of reducing campus energy intensity by 20 percent by 2020 and committed to a new goal of 40 percent. UCI is the first educational institution in the country to meet this objective, and did so seven years early.

Coming in at number five on the top 20 list, ASU was recognized for its newly approved carbon-neutral policy for its new buildings as well as its Carbon Project which will pay for programs like planting trees in low-income areas, planting an on-campus "carbon sink" forest, and electrifying university cars. The university also provides incentives for athletic teams to earn Sustainable Sports Certifications and for research units to become official Green Labs.

Rounding out the top 20 “Cool Schools” 2018 ranking, Cornell University was recognized for its student-run food supply, Anabel’s Grocery, which was launched last year. The grocery store provides low-cost access to local, organic, and culturally inclusive foods. It also broke ground on the Sustainable Landscapes Trail, designed to highlight 14 areas on Cornell’s campus that showcase the university’s commitment to natural lands management. The Ivy league school has reduced campus emissions by 36 percent and cooling energy by 86 percent since 2008. Currently, Cornell is experimenting with Earth Source Heat, a new system that involves drilling into the earth's upper crust and piping thermal heat through the often-chilly campus.

As our Better Buildings Challenge and Better Buildings Alliance partners progresses toward new goals, their experiences implementing improvement projects and overcoming energy efficiency barriers will be shared in the Better Buildings Solution Center, an online tool designed to help users find tested and proven energy solutions.

Learn more about these partners and their involvement with DOE's Better Buildings program here.