The Sustainable Campus (Trends and Innovations)

An Energy Partnership

Colorado School of Mines (Mines) in Golden, CO, is known globally for the quality of its graduates, the success of its alumni, and its unique expertise in topics related to earth, energy, and the environment. The school is home to 10 sustainability-related research centers and institutes spanning renewable energy and fuel cells to water pollution prevention and environmental risk assessment. The campus itself features six LEED Gold/Silver facilities and is pursuing LEED Silver/Gold on several new construction buildings and renovations.

Mines faculty and staff rally around a shared sustainability vision. That vision got a recent boost with a three-year partnership to implement McKinstry’s powerED energy awareness and savings program. The powerED program will improve student energy awareness and engagement while saving utility and operating costs.

Meeting Energy Goals

The powerED program features three key focus elements: people, process, and performance. The “people” component educates building occupants about the importance of energy efficiency and resource conservation; the “process” component identifies and implements low- and no-cost operational and maintenance strategies to reduce energy use; and the “performance” component tracks, measures, analyzes, and quantifies energy savings and carbon reduction. Each of the three components is used to increase staff and student awareness and engagement, identify energy savings opportunities, communicate performance results, and promote success.

People—Energy savings are maximized when individuals take responsibility for energy efficiency. The primary goal of powerED’s people module is to eliminate waste and reduce energy use through awareness and behavior change. The program offers strategies that encourage occupants to get involved through an ongoing campaign and interactive online platform. Activities include constructing a carbon cube to visually represent one metric ton of carbon dioxide, behind-the-scenes energy use tours, residence hall energy challenges, and a lights-out hour with LED glow-in-the-dark activities.

Process—A proven process of identifying and implementing low-cost or high-payback operations and maintenance strategies is critical to energy savings. The process module includes monitoring and analyzing building automation data, which is used to meet ongoing facility performance metrics. Automated alerts inform engineers when building operations are out of range. The alerts can then be evaluated to find root causes for correction.

Performance—You can’t manage what you don’t measure. The performance module delivers the ability to analyze, document, and proactively manage facility energy consumption. McKinstry performs ongoing energy accounting and analysis to monitor usage patterns and costs on a monthly basis. Data is reported via an online dashboard and includes energy savings, costs avoidance, carbon reduction, energy-use intensity (EUI), energy cost index (ECI), and ENERGY STAR benchmarking. The performance module allows Mines to better measure and compare facility energy performance against national averages, historical baselines, and management goals over time.

A Three-Year Program

Launched with the Fall 2018 semester, Mines and McKinstry will run a three-year powerED program across 32 facilities on campus. The program is one of several energy and sustainability initiatives currently underway. A larger building and operational improvement effort is also focusing on energy-efficiency retrofits and other campus improvement projects. The two-phase project includes: Campus irrigation controls and water conservation efforts; upgrading select lighting to LEDs; adding dimming controls to classrooms to improve projector use; implementing HVAC exhaust energy recovery systems; upgrading chilled water systems; and building automation system control optimization. Work will also include adding solar photovoltaic (PV) renewable energy on campus. These improvements will improve energy efficiency, increase system reliability, and enhance the learning and working environment for both faculty and students.

Spread across two phases, Mines is investing $7.7 million in campus energy retrofit projects, which is guaranteed by McKinstry to save the school more than $750,000 in energy and operations cost each year. These savings will be used to pay for energy retrofit projects, along with nearly $265,000 in utility rebates spanning both phases.

Colorado School of Mines is committed to delivering every advantage possible to help students excel in and out of the classroom. The powerED program integrates energy and sustainability into campus life, engaging students and staff to make a meaningful impact. At the same time, the energy retrofits increase energy performance across campus while reducing the school’s carbon footprint. The end result drives behavior change by joining efficient buildings with informed, committed occupants.

This article originally appeared in the College Planning & Management September 2018 issue of Spaces4Learning.

About the Authors

Gary Bowersock is associate vice president of Operations for the Colorado School of Mines (

Alison Schwabe is powerED program manager for McKinstry (