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.
Chesapeake College has been able to reduce its annual energy consumption by 25% while increasing campus resilience through the college's partnership with its utility.
The Better Buildings Smart Labs Accelerator's goal 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 to lead your organization through a systems-based management approach.
Community College of Allegheny County implemented a network-wide power management system across 4,000 personal computers and the campus data center, realizing annual savings of 74% on energy and $70,000 on costs.
Carleton College built three geothermal bore fields totaling 305 wells to replace an aging steam system and provide heat to campus.
Better 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.
Towson University completely renovated its Residence Tower to take it from the most energy-intensive residence hall on campus to a welcoming LEED Gold space outfitted with variable refrigerant flow HVAC, LED lighting and controls, and a high-performance building envelope.
UC 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%.
CSU used a PPA to install 4.25 MW of solar systems on campus in a cost-effective and low-risk manner.
Located in a water stressed region, University of California, Irvine saves 61 million gallons of potable water by switching to reclaimed water in their central plant cooling tower.
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.
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:
- Alignment of Building Safety and Energy Efficiency to Ensure Student and Staff Safety
- Resiliency Planning to Mitigate Risks during Extreme Climate-Related Events
- Decarbonization Work and Technology Adoption in Laboratories, Central Plants, Commercial Kitchens, Medical Buildings, or Transportation Networks
Steering Committee Members
- Stephen Kolb, Towson University (Chair)
- Andrea Trimble, University of Virginia
- Alexandra Harry, Catholic University of America
- Carol Dollard, Colorado State University
- Elaine Sadowski, Community College of Allegheny County
- Greg Farley, George Mason University
- Jose Varona, University of Miami
- Steve Glazner, APPA - Leadership in Educational Facilities
- Wade Berner Massachusetts Institute of Technology
- Wendell Brase, University of California Irvine