The higher education sector in the U.S. accounts for over 20 million post-secondary students and about 5 billion square feet of floorspace. Colleges, universities, and other post-secondary institutions across the U.S. hold unique places in their communities—as civic, academic, and cultural stewards, and opinion shapers. Through the higher education sector of the Better Buildings program, 53 colleges and universities are sharing best practices and engaging with technical experts to advance their energy savings goals.
There are many different ways to work with DOE through the Better Buildings Initiative. Explore our partnerships to find the best fit for your organization, whether your focus is energy, water, waste, or carbon.
Dealing with COVID-19 presents an unprecedented scenario for building owners, plant managers, and employees. Better Buildings has collected resources from partners, affiliates, and other organizations that may prove useful.
Watch all previously recorded webinars in the On-Demand Webinars library sorted by popular topics such as resilience, zero energy buildings, and more.
Higher Education Energy Planning: Key Findings Briefing DocumentBetter 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 in the higher education sector.
Community College of Allegheny County RFQ for Net-Zero Energy Workforce Training Center Solutions at a GlanceThe Community College of Allegheny County issued a request for qualifications (RFQ) for their new 90,000-square-foot Workforce Development and Training Center, which will feature smart classrooms, laboratories, and multi-use spaces. The RFQ includes specifications for constructing the center as a Net Zero Energy (NZE) facility.
Arizona State University: Student Pavilion Showcase ProjectDue to the location and student-centric focus, the Student Pavilion was selected to become the first Net Zero Energy building at ASU. The pavilion is expected to achieve 52% energy savings and provides an opportunity to demonstrate and teach Net Zero Energy and Zero Waste practices.
UC Irvine: Developing an Integrated Smart Lab Program Implementation ModelUC Irvine's integrated “Smart Lab” program improves lab energy efficiency through an array of control and sensor technologies; labs using this program can achieve energy savings of up to 60%.
UC Irvine: Empowering Managers to Help Teams Find Deep Energy Savings Implementation ModelUC 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.
Chesapeake College: On-Campus Solar Energy and Storage Solutions at a GlanceChesapeake College has been able to reduce its annual energy consumption by 25% while increasing campus resilience through the college's partnership with its utility.
Smart Labs Accelerator Toolkit ToolkitsA key goal of the Better Buildings Smart Labs Accelerator was to help organizations optimize the performance of their laboratories by mitigating safety and health risks, reducing energy, and improving ventilation. This toolkit is an easy-to-use, step-by-step guide containing additional tasks, resources, and deliverables to guide your organization through a systems-based management approach.
Energy & Sustainability Tools
ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager
25% of U.S. commercial building space is actively benchmarking in Portfolio Manager — making it the industry-leading benchmarking tool. You’ll also be joining more than half of the Fortune 100®, half of the largest U.S. healthcare organizations, major league sports teams, colleges and universities, and entire cities. Provided at no cost by U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
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.
Sustainability Indicator Management and Analysis Platform is a carbon and nitrogen-accounting platform that can track, analyze, and improve campus-wide sustainability. Maintained by UNH Sustainability Institute, creators of the preceding Campus Carbon Calculator, CarbonMAP and Nitrogen Footprint Tool.
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.
Energy & Sustainability Financing
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.
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.
Internal Financing for Carbon Reduction Projects
Internal financing refers to an organization’s use of its existing financial resources to pay for carbon reduction projects. This fact sheet summarizes 6 common internal financing modes.
External Financing for Carbon Reduction Projects
External financing refers to funding acquired from sources outside the organization.
The Better Buildings Alliance Higher Education Steering Committee helps to set priorities for work in the sector each year. This year, sector activities focus on the following priorities:
- Decarbonizing through Technology and Operations
- Creatively Financing Energy and Carbon Reduction Projects
- Catalyzing Engagement in DOE's Workforce Accelerator
Steering Committee Members
- Greg Farley, George Mason University (Chair)
- Amy Butler, Michigan State University
- Justin Thomas, Emory University
- Andrea Trimble, University of Virginia
- Elaine Sadowski, Community College of Allegheny County
- Phil Valko, Washington University in St. Louis
- Stephen Kolb, Towson University
- Steve Glazner, APPA - Leadership in Educational Facilities