Skip to Main Content Skip to Footer

Return to BOK Home

Abtract: Roadmap for Campus Environmental Sustainability


Climate Challenge. Global climate change creates pressure to lower Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emission levels despite uncertain economies and financial pressures. Universities must maintain sustainability and environmental thought leadership in research and teaching, development of carbon capture and sequestration technologies, and cutting-edge sustainable design (e.g., buildings, vehicles, products, industrial processes, investments). American College and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment (ACUPCC) recognizes the unique responsibility of universities in training the people who will develop social, economic, and technological solutions to climate change.

Walking the Walk: Implementing Best Practices. Universities can model neutrality on campus and thus teach students needed skills and knowledge. In the Aristotelian tradition, schools must walk the walk because using existing knowledge can be as powerful  as developing new technologies. The role of facilities managers is to apply recognized best practices (e.g., the AASHE emission reduction strategies); engage staff, faculty, and students in implementing solutions; model transportation alternatives; use eco-purchasing; implement an environmental waste management program; and mold a generation that, as a matter of course, considers the life-cycle environmental impact of every purchased product.

Campus  Operations  Sustainability  Action   Plan.   The path to carbon neutrality  and  environmental sustainability needs a streamlined, practical, and budget- sensitive roadmap. The rest of this chapter details the steps in this process. Many factors (e.g., personalities, campus culture, funding realities, organizational capacity, staffing constraints) affect the  move  toward sustainability. The process on a specific campus can be more segmented and chaotic than the model in this chapter but also potentially more creative, organic, fluid, and individualized. To capture the goodwill and harness the energy of people who are ready to start, initiatives must be identified and implemented to produce quick wins while a more comprehensive sustainability action plan is developed in parallel. This discussion primarily defines campus sustainability in terms of operations and environmental sustainability, but it can be defined more broadly to include the greening of academic,  research, and public service missions.

Step 1: Obtain Senior  Management  Support Leaders must provide a clear mandate (vision, support, policies to institutionalize energy goals and authorize actions and programs), overcoming  inertia  and resistance to change and conveying the importance of initiatives such as energy-saving building operations that might be noticed by occupants or involve initially inconvenient changes in habits that produce results.

Step 2: Establish a Baseline

The long-term goals of carbon neutrality and  sustainability (e.g., in water, waste, resource use, waste management) establish a performance baseline to identify areas of concern via assessment or gap analysis methods based on widely accepted key performance indicators (KPIs), such as energy per square foot, water per student, waste diversion rates and operational best practices. Many sustainability tools are available, including (1) APPA ESAT (largely based on work at Carleton University), a dynamic tracking database with data feeds on key energy and sustainability measures for the APPA FPI report; (2) AASHE STARS, a system for comprehensive sustainability assessments, focused mainly on design, construction, and operations; and (3) LEED EB and Green Globes, the most widely used   green building assessment and certification methods in North America, which support measuring the current state of affairs. The decision on which tool to use is based on two premises. (1) What gets measured gets done because sustainability is a function of as-built physical attributes, human actions (e.g., O&M), and performance, which must be measured to improve features, operations, and behaviors. Baselining and measurement systems must benchmark against key performance indicators (KPIs, such as energy and water intensity, best practice systems, building operations, occupant behaviors). The measurement framework must be robust, with a point system serving as a measure of progress and a proxy for other performance indicators, simplifying high-level communications. (2) Top down meets bottom up (especially for large organizations) means that clear direction and organizational push must come from senior managers, particularly to initiate actions, but a green campus culture is sustainable in the long term only if based on a growing bottom-up (grassroots) movement. A sustainable campus community needs an environmental management system that is flexible, uses a supportive (not prescriptive) framework, allows the community to own solutions, supports universally accepted KPIs (that on occasion might not apply), and takes a holistic approach with a commitment to reduce carbon and environmental footprints.

Assessing Campus-Wide Features and Operations Versus Individual Buildings. Benchmarking systems have categories for the entire campus (e.g., in ESAT, university policies, overall campus operations, and campus-wide administrative functions) and for specific individual buildings (e.g., issues that vary by functional requirements and building features supporting environmental and energy goals;  performance measures). For ESAT, a questionnaire  is  completed  for the campus and for each building; scores are generated; and data is analyzed. A portfolio report shows campus performance and compares building scores (e.g., on energy and water intensity values, carbon emissions, energy and environmental features, management best practices) and provides an inventory of features and operation practices in each building (see Figure 3.4).

Capital Cost of Improvement and Savings Report. Universities can analyze preliminary improvement costs and potential savings by using the ESAT-generated report, equivalent to a Level 1 energy audit, but not a more detailed investment-grade energy audit. An engineer might conduct an onsite investigation. The assessment reviews monthly utility bills, red-flags specific energy features that use excess energy, and provides an order-of-magnitude estimate of savings. If capital improvements are needed, an investment-grade audit is recommended.

Building Intelligence. Intelligent buildings have flexible, effective, comfortable, secure, and energy-efficient environments based on integrated and detailed sensing, monitoring, and controls (e.g., multiple thermostats for building or individual floor, sunlight monitoring and automatic indoor lighting changes, controls that respond to key-swipe data, centralized monitoring and control).

The CABA BIQ tool (as one example) assesses and guides implementation of building intelligence capabilities.

Charts: Roadmap: Building Energy and Greenhouse Gas Benchmarking

Figure 3.4. Roadmap: Building Energy and Greenhouse Gas Benchmarking

Green Occupant Assessment.  Some  issues  are  within  the direct sphere of influence of the administration, faculty, and students who are the occupants and users of buildings (e.g., space allocation, protocols for turning off unused lights and equipment, purchasing policies, toxic waste disposal).

Big Data, Energy Monitoring, and Ongoing Commissioning. Many institutions are implementing web-based energy management systems that track building portfolio utility billing data, providing meter and submeter data from campus real-time metering infrastructure or local distribution companies. Advanced digital memory and data storage are part of the big data revolution (e.g., cloud data storage). Linking to the BAS, smart building software can generate algorithms in real time to indicate temperature, cooling, and energy variances from benchmarks (e.g., data trends and patterns, command center reports with remote server building management, support for ongoing commissioning).

Reporting the Baseline Data. Baseline data includes (1) an overview of campus policies, procedures, and management framework; (2) for each building, energy, water, GHG emissions, and waste metrics; inventories of sustainable systems (and features) and building intelligence systems; and occupant operations and behaviors assessment; and (3) a portfolio report that highlights achievements, areas of concern, and building category comparisons (e.g., residence halls, sports facilities). ESAT provides current energy use values, estimated energy savings, and resulting reduction in GHG

Step 3: Establishing Goals, Objectives, and Policies

Detailed action plans are based on a sense of general direction, degree of commitment, and goals and objectives, which provide the basis for developing performance indicators and targets.

First Articulate a Vision.  A long-term sustainability vision (existing or developed) creates a strategy to shape general direction and expresses goals that could be quantified at some stage.

Establish Goals. A sustainability steering committee (including facilities management administrators and strong upper-level  management support) bases goals on  a clear understanding of what is desired and realistically achievable (e.g., reduce GHG emissions, show environmental leadership, reduce costs).

Review Data and Identify Areas of Concern. Data reviews prioritize low performance areas, drawing problem statements from findings, synthesis and analysis of quantitative and qualitative data, including partial or comprehensive environmental and energy audits involving the entire campus community.

Establish Objectives. Objectives for each goal give a strategy (not specific actions) for solving problems.

Managers generally agree on the most effective broad objectives and strategies for reducing energy use and GHGs.

Establish Indicators. The vision is quantified by setting metric indicators, each scientifically valid and demonstrating a meaningful cause-and-effect link. Many commonly accepted indicators relate to broad objectives, but analysis of trends, anomalies, and areas of concern can produce more granularity. Data availability, ease and cost of collection, and meaningfulness for target audience must be considered.

Establish Targets. Consulting with facilities management, the steering committee establishes targets based on baseline condition; observed trends; current and predicted technologies; and technological, social, or economic constraints. Targets must be aggressive enough to challenge the campus to take significant steps toward sustainability and carbon neutrality.

Where Appropriate, Establish  Campus Environmental Policies. Broad or narrow overarching campus environmental policies can formalize and strengthen commitments and empower responsible personnel.

Step 4: Develop an Action Plan, Programs, and Projects

The preliminary action plan notes broad-brush strategies to achieve specific targets (e.g., for energy, GHG emissions, water, waste, resource use) and references performance indicators. Resources for campus climate action planning are available from APPA, AASHE, and the National Wildlife Federation Campus Ecology Program.

The action plan is based on preliminary data analysis and observations in the areas of concern. Consulting with facilities managers, the steering committee identifies probable root causes of each issue (and links between them) and sets primary, secondary, and tertiary priorities that serve as the basis for a strategic action plan that informs target activities. One effective approach is brainstorming (based on a comprehensive briefing package with the action plan; goals, objectives, and targets; best practices menu; some areas of concern identified via baseline data), which generates a report on potential measures; existing capacity; funding options; issues, gaps, and barriers; and likely reactions.

Proposed measures are evaluated by using a STAPLEE (Social. Technical. Administrative, Political, Legal, Economic, Environmental, analysis) cost-benefit analysis framework to identify final measures  based  on  social and academic impact, technical and administrative feasibility, political will, legal authority, economic feasibility, and environmental impact.

Choose the  Most  Effective  Programs  and  Projects. The steering committee drafts a list of all proposed activities, with STAPLEE findings for each proposed activity; analyzes and compares feasibility and benefits; and recommends the best courses of action (e.g.,  clearly preferred actions; low-cost, but not as effective or desirable, actions; possible but not desirable actions, needing significantly fewer resources than a less objectionable alternative; technically feasible and acceptable actions, needing further study).

Prioritize Actions. The steering committee evaluates each measure based on needed funding, ease of implementation, timeline, and multi-objective actions.

Establish Short-Term, Medium-Term, and Long-Term Time Frames. The action plan reflects a continuum of short-term and medium-term goals and accommodates realistic long-term goals.

Describe Each Program or Project. An outline of key elements for each program includes objectives; short- term, mid-term, and long-term results; needed technical assistance, senior management support, equipment type and materials, and skills and expertise; financial considerations; main obstacles and tactics to overcome them; and metrics.

Step 5: Identify Funding

This process will be unique to each institution. Some commence a “green-fee” that is passed along to the students in order to establish a “green fund”. Others set aside a portion of the capital budget as seed money that must be used for energy savings projects that then can commence to establish ongoing savings, which can become the funding mechanism. The most basic approach is to go after the low hanging fruit first and then use that success to fund progressive initiatives. Whenever capital improvements in areas are under consideration this can also become an opportunity.

Step 6: Implement the Plan

Project options require a more detailed assessment than the action plan (based on general macro data).

Continue to Enlist Top-Level Support. A clear and ongoing commitment from campus leaders (and support from their communities) kick-starts energy and sustainability efforts and supports continuation by demonstrating steady progress (e.g., improved scores in AASHE STARS or other ratings systems).

Focus on Facilities Leadership.  Campus  facilities operators have the greatest opportunity and ability to save energy and to initiate and manage other environmental programs (e.g., recycling). Senior leaders reinforce the mandate and empower facilities management, recognizing that the early implementation phases could involve some initial inconvenience or discomfort.

Organize Energy and Environmental Awareness Program. When carried out campus-wide, many everyday actions have a significant impact on energy and resources. Conservation habits, customs, and ground rules reflect an enhanced environmental consciousness and can become part of a campus culture, likely carrying over into personal lives. Changing habits is much harder than changing structures or systems, so a well-defined strategy and a measurable action plan for each objective are needed. On a busy campus, various methods and media might be required to gain people’s attention. Creativity and persistence are key, but facilities management must do its job first.

Develop Campus-Wide Policies and Communicate Them. Strong communications, messaging, and accountability are the basis for change. Senior management messages must speak to both value and action, followed by a plan for implementation and measurement.

Go for Gold But Pick Low-Hanging Fruit with Caution. “Energy pig” buildings and systems should be identified and targeted as priorities for campus conservation efforts, coupling short and long payback measures so that all low-hanging-fruit projects are not completed first, leaving only longer-term projects that are more difficult to justify and fund.

Cope  with  the  Computer  Explosion.  In  the  last  15 years, computer use has increased explosively, with associated higher energy use (load creep).  For  example,  a computer left on continuously is a relatively small drain in a year, but many thousands of computers in the same mode result in an enormous energy and dollar cost for  the plug load and air conditioning, a problem that can be addressed by policy.

Overcome   Financial   Disincentives,    Provide Incentives. The use-it-or-lose-it approach creates a financial disincentive because energy conservation savings result in a smaller budget in the next cycle. Campus real estate with a fixed charge for energy and other utilities has no incentive for renters to use less energy.

Use Energy Service Companies (ESCOs) and Develop Large Comprehensive Project That Pay for Themselves. As needed, managers can consider the services of an ESCO to develop, design, install, and possibly finance energy conservation and efficiency projects.

Avoid the Pitfalls and Take Advantage of Electric Deregulation. In much of North America, electricity is a deregulated marketplace where the cheapest electricity might be the dirtiest, but customers can choose a green power supplier.

Step 6: Track and Report

Periodic progress reviews used to update staff, faculty, and students use indicators (largely related to elements of the baseline data set) that measure how projects advance the university toward achievement of goals and objectives. Regular measurement against indicators, when compared with the baseline condition, highlights improvements (or problems) and might be useful in comparing current practices against those of similar communities. To obtain an overview of improvements, the campus should perform an annual reassessment (e.g., using ESAT or other evaluative tools such as AASHE STARS). Hundreds of colleges and universities  are  already realizing significant benefits by demonstrating leadership in implementing sustainability.

Read the full article.

Leave a Reply