Work smarter, not harder

With roughly 300 buildings across campus, the University of Utah’s heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems are massive. Miles worth of ductwork, countless coils and compressors and considerable amounts of controls work together to make our facilities habitable and productive.

An ongoing project in Facilities Management is ensuring that these systems are as efficient as possible. With large energy-usage savings, emissions reductions and energy-cost savings, it is making a tangible difference.

The Energy-Efficiency Initiatives (EEI) projects are the result of a very detailed evaluation of many potential energy-saving opportunities for the University of Utah, led by Chris Benson, associate director of sustainability and energy in Facilities Management.

“Energy usage gets a lot of attention because it accounts for the majority of the university’s carbon footprint and potential cost savings are high,” Benson said. “Efficiency projects often have a lot of bang-for-the-buck. I’ve always found it exciting to find these hidden pots of energy efficiency gold where it’s possible to both save a lot of money and significantly reduce emissions.”

Simply put, our buildings are now working smarter, saving energy and money. This improvement benefits the university and our neighbors. The university’s sheer size—around 50,000 people on campus and 17 million square feet of floor area—makes these savings even more impactful.

“The University of Utah alone makes up about 1% of the entire state’s electricity and gas use,” said Steven Klekas, engineering manager in Facilities Management. “Projects like this that tackle efforts at the campus-wide scale have the ability to make a significant impact, not just at the university, but also in our local community.”

The high-level results of the EEI project are impressive. This year’s project is expected to provide roughly $3 million of cost savings per year, lowering the university’s carbon footprint and improving control of our critical spaces. The benefits go deeper than just that, though; the project has a snowball effect. Cost savings will be reinvested back into additional projects each year through a revolving fund to achieve even more energy and financial savings. Greater system knowledge, space-use documentation and reduced wear-and-tear on equipment, and even improved comfort are all additional byproducts of the project.