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Energy Initiatives Move KU’s Lawrence Campus Toward Conservation Goals

Wednesday, September 07, 2016

LAWRENCE — Ongoing efforts by the University of Kansas Energy Office and Center for Sustainability to reduce energy usage on campus have produced strong results over the past year. Reports for centrally funded electricity and gas usage for Fiscal Year (FY) 2016 show a decrease of 1.9 million kWh of electricity and 46 billion BTUs of natural gas compared with FY 2015. The avoided electricity could power 156 homes for one year, and the natural gas savings is equivalent to offsetting the greenhouse gas emissions from 520 passenger vehicles for one year.

KU’s Energy Office has a total energy consumption goal of 100 kBTUs/ft2 per year, which is a measurement of energy per square foot, so as campus grows and buildings are added or changed, energy measurements can remain consistent. Energy consumption was reduced from 106 kBTUs/ft2 to 98 kBTUs/ft2 in FY2016 compared with FY2015, exceeding that goal.

“We are excited to reach our goal, but the work doesn’t stop there. There are still energy conservation measures we can implement to continue to reduce energy intensity further,” said KU Energy Manager, George Werth.

The energy conservation measures taken to assist in the FY2016 reduction include building scheduling, LED installations, new behavior programs and retro-commissioning of spaces, among other practices.

Building scheduling has been optimized so that heating ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) run at a lesser strength during hours when it is not needed, especially during holiday breaks. Meeting with departmental contacts, utilizing class schedules provided through the Registrar’s Office, and developing an online tool to report scheduling changes have assisted in expanding building scheduling conservation efforts. More than 23,000 hours of HVAC operating time was saved from changing schedules during last year’s holidays alone.

LED light technology has been rapidly improving and has greatly contributed to energy savings at KU. In March 2015, the university began replacing halogen, compact fluorescent and incandescent lamps with LEDs when the conventional bulbs failed. As of early August 2016, there have been approximately 4,500 LED lamps installed with an estimated annual savings of $61,000 in electricity charges and maintenance fees. 

In addition to lighting, KU’s Energy Office has been retro-commissioning existing buildings. This is a systematic process that evaluates areas with high energy use for potential improvements to equipment and control systems. When problems are discovered, they are repaired and oftentimes lead to reduced energy use. Fifteen buildings have been investigated, and improvements have been made by adjusting controls, fixing leaks, replacing parts and other approaches.

While technical energy conservation measures are part of the solution for energy-efficient building operations, the Center for Sustainability and KU Energy Office are also working together to encourage and support behaviors among building users that save energy in their work space.

“We are excited to combine technical and behavior efforts to reduce energy use even more at KU. We have seen as much as a 10 to 20 percent reduction in electricity with these practices combined in the past,” said Jeff Severin, Director of the Center for Sustainability.

Leadership teams, or “Green Teams,” address specific challenges in three buildings as a result of this new behavioral initiative. The Green Team at the Multidisciplinary Research Building launched a successful “Shut the Sash” behavioral campaign encouraging users to shut the sashes on the fume hoods to save energy and increase safety, saving more than 322 million cubic feet of air from being exhausted outside during the campaign. That is enough air to fill Allen Fieldhouse over 43 times. That reduction results in energy savings from the operation of fume hoods as well as from not having to heat or cool new air coming into the building as a result of open hoods.

The energy conservation measures implemented and the energy saved in FY2016 are supported by the University Energy Policy and Campus Energy Conservation Standards. The energy policy and guidelines are designed to realistically and comprehensively reduce energy consumption on the Lawrence campus. University faculty, staff and student cooperation and support of the energy policy are key to its success.

The complete energy conservation policy and guidelines can be found in the KU Policy Library. For more information about energy conservation efforts at KU, visit www.energy.ku.edu.