UI cools summer energy bills by consolidating classroom use
Tuesday, March 10, 2015
UI students study in a classroom
Compacting summer schedules and consolidating the use of classroom space allowed the UI to lower electrical consumption by 19 percent. File photo by Tom Jorgensen.

When you think of a hot and humid Iowa summer, you probably don’t expect to save money on your energy bill without having to break a sweat. But the University of Iowa is doing just that by scheduling summer session classroom space more strategically.

A program started in 2014 reduced electrical consumption in selected classroom buildings last summer by an average of 19 percent, reducing the total campus carbon footprint—all without sacrificing comfort.

The new summer session classroom scheduling standardization policy, set by the UI Office of the Provost, provided an opportunity to test how much energy could be saved by compacting schedules and consolidating the use of occupied space on campus. Fewer classes were held in the afternoons when it costs more to cool buildings, and evening classes and events were not scheduled in some buildings to reduce energy use.

The energy-savings initiative included the English Philosophy Building (EPB), Maclean Hall (MLH) and Pomerantz Center (PC) and included the suspension of general assignment classroom activities after 6 p.m. on weekdays plus all day Saturday and Sunday in selected buildings. This schedule allowed the Facilities Management energy management team to schedule the cycle down of air handling systems during unoccupied times in those buildings.

Results show that electrical consumption during the 10-week period was reduced by an average of 19 percent in the three buildings used in the pilot, with the Pomerantz Center benefiting the most at a 27 percent reduction. The consumption of chilled water, used to help cool the buildings, was reduced in all three buildings as well. Additionally, custodial servicing requirements were reduced with the closing of several classrooms for the summer period.

“The compacted classroom scheduling plan will be expanded for the 2015 academic summer session to possibly include four additional buildings for a total of seven campus facilities," says Lit Litwiller, UI associate director of Energy Conservation.

This energy-reducing initiative is a collaborative effort between the UI Office of the Registrar, UI Office of Sustainability, and UI Facilities Management Energy Management.

As the UI approaches the halfway mark towards the 2020 Vision goal of offsetting the energy demands of new buildings with conservation measures in existing buildings, campus energy consumption remains below the 2010 benchmark despite the opening of seven new buildings on the UI campus.

For more information on energy management at the UI and the 2020 Vision, visit the Facilities Management website or the Office of Sustainability website.