Campus Efficiency and Renewables: Lessons from Healthcare and Higher Education Partners

By Better Buildings Beat Team on Sep 10, 2021

In a recent peer exchange, Better Buildings partners in the healthcare and higher education sectors discussed challenges and solutions related to energy efficiency and renewable energy procurement on a campus setting. The event brought together over a dozen participants from Better Buildings partner organizations, including University of Wisconsin and UW Health, University of Utah and University of Utah Health, University of Virginia, Gundersen Health Systems, University of Nebraska Medical Center, Stanford University, and Northwestern University.

Partners reviewed opportunities and best practices for green revolving funds and financing, renewables procurement, goal setting and collaboration on energy efficiency, and building operations during the pandemic.

University of Utah

Green Revolving Funds and Financing

Representatives from the University of Utah and University of Utah Health shared best practices on collaborating on a cross-campus green revolving fund (GRF). Through a GRF, a fund is set up for energy efficiency and sustainability projects, and savings from those efforts are rolled back into the fund for future projects. When budgets became tight for University of Utah Health during COVID-19, daily communications began between the main campus and the hospital system. The collaboration resulted in the university allowing the health campus to access the university’s GRF, thereby ensuring energy efficiency projects were still being funded across campus. Due to the success of the university’s green revolving fund, the Utah teams plan to continue these strategies into the future. Learn more about the strategy in Utah’s Better Buildings Implementation Model.

Solar installation led by the University of Virginia

Renewables Procurement

The University of Virginia has made strides with renewables through onsite installations and offsite procurement on the academic campus. The partner looked to others on the call to find solutions to the lack of available rooftop space for the UVA Health medical buildings to apply rooftop solar arrays. Gundersen Health Systems, a leader in the renewable space, has renewable energy projects at more than a dozen facilities and is adding more ground mount solar arrays where on-site space exists. The Gundersen team shared about its solar array atop a parking garage at its Lutheran Hospital – a strategy that was popular among partners due to the ubiquity of parking garages on healthcare and university campuses.

Gundersen Health System rooftop solar PV

Goal Setting and Collaboration on Energy Efficiency

Many healthcare and higher education partners are pursuing portfolio-wide net zero goals. A crucial piece of the puzzle is communication and collaboration across campus. For example, one healthcare partner seeks to tie medical campus net zero goals with those of the academic schools of health, nursing, and pharmacy. As more organizations pursue net zero and decarbonization goals, these partners recommend cross-campus alignment on energy strategies to achieve maximum savings.

Explore the Better Buildings Solution Center to learn more about efficiency in the healthcare and higher education sectors.