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May 9, 2014

MSU zeroing in on energy-reduction goals

When Michigan State University joined the Better Buildings Challenge, a national program designed to reduce energy use, it planned to meet the national goal of a 20 percent reduction by the year 2020.

However, just more than two years into the program, the university is more than halfway to that 20 percent goal.

At a national summit held this week in Washington D.C., the U.S. Department of Energy announced that in 2013, Better Buildings Challenge partners successfully reduced the energy use of their buildings and industrial facilities by more than 2.5 percent.

However, MSU has achieved a 10 percent reduction in energy intensity, which is the amount of energy used per square foot. MSU was one of 30 partners, out of a total of 190, that achieved a 10 percent reduction.

The Better Buildings Challenge was launched by President Obama in 2011 with the goal of making commercial, multifamily and industrial buildings 20 percent more energy efficient in 10 years.

Lynda Boomer, of MSU Infrastructure Planning and Facilities, said MSU’s energy-reduction goal was surpassed because of the adoption of the energy transition plan, conducting a comprehensive energy audit of many of the campus’ buildings, and by work done on Anthony Hall, the university’s showcase building.

“For example,” she said, “we’ve installed occupancy sensors above the fume hoods in the labs so that when someone walks up to the hood it can go to a higher air flow. When no one is there, it drops back to a lower air flow.”

Other changes to the nearly 60-year-old Anthony Hall include a system that automatically detects chemical spills and purges the air, and retrofits such as lighting motion sensors and variable flow on the hot-water system.

MSU is now in the third year of its transition plan. Developed by a team of students, faculty and staff, the plan guides the university’s future energy decisions with the goal of achieving a university powered by 100 percent renewable energy.

“MSU is invested in the Energy Transition Plan and our progress toward achieving our Better Buildings Challenge goals demonstrates that,” said Jennifer Battle, director of MSU’s Office of Campus Sustainability. “Along with the Better Buildings Challenge, we have been exploring other energy-conservation programs, testing new biofuels at the power plant and investigating other renewable energy options on campus.”

Other MSU energy-reduction highlights include:

  • Between 2009 and 2013, MSU reduced greenhouse gas emissions by 17 percent.
  • Last year, MSU’s Bott Building became the first campus facility to use geothermal energy for heating and cooling.
  • MSU uses the least electricity per square feet of any Big Ten university.

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By: Tom Oswald